Low respiratory sinus arrhythmia and prolonged psychophysiological arousal in posttraumatic stress disorder: heart rate dynamics and individual differences in arousal regulation

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Low respiratory sinus arrhythmia and prolonged psychophysiological arousal in posttraumatic stress disorder: heart rate dynamics and individual differences in arousal regulation

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Title: Low respiratory sinus arrhythmia and prolonged psychophysiological arousal in posttraumatic stress disorder: heart rate dynamics and individual differences in arousal regulation
Author: Sack, Martin; Hopper, James W.; Lamprecht, Friedhelm

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Citation: Sack, Martin, James W Hopper, and Friedhelm Lamprecht. 2004. “Low Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia and Prolonged Psychophysiological Arousal in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Heart Rate Dynamics and Individual Differences in Arousal Regulation.” Biological Psychiatry 55 (3) (February): 284–290. doi:10.1016/s0006-3223(03)00677-2.
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Abstract: Background: There is extensive evidence that the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system can modulate psychophysiological arousal. To date, no studies have investigated associations between cardiac vagal tone and the time course of arousal during exposure to trauma-related stimuli in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Methods: Thirty-one subjects, 29 with PTSD and 2 with partial PTSD, had electrocardiograms recorded during baseline and 2-minute traumatic and neutral script-driven imagery periods. Heart rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), and heart rate half-recovery to the trauma script were quantified, and subjects were divided into low and high baseline RSA groups. Results: Across all participants, heart rate significantly increased from the neutral to the trauma script and RSA significantly decreased from baseline to trauma script (p < .05). As predicted, low RSA subjects had more prolonged heart rate increases to the trauma script than high RSA subjects (p < .001), and heart rate half-recovery was negatively correlated to baseline RSA (r = -.50, p = .005). Conclusions: This study is the first to find decreased RSA in response to a traumatic reminder and an association between low baseline RSA and sustained conditioned arousal in PTSD. Low vagal tone may account for deficient arousal and emotion regulation capacities often observed in PTSD.
Published Version: doi:10.1016/S0006-3223(03)00677-2
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:32072257
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