Background: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be associated with a general impairment of cognitive function that extends beyond the processing of trauma-specific stimuli. Suppression of the auditory P50 response to repeated stimuli occurs in normal subjects and reflects the central nervous system's ability to screen out repetitive stimuli, a phenomenon referred to as sensory gating. This study examines P50 sensory gating to nonstartle auditory stimuli in PTSD subjects and normal controls.
Methods: P50 generation and gating were studied using a conditioning/testing paradigm in 15 male subjects with PTSD and 12 male controls. P50 test/conditioning (T/C) ratios were estimated using the Singular Value Decomposition method.
Results: The amplitude of the P50 response to the conditioning stimulus did not differ in subjects with PTSD compared to normal controls. The P50 T/C ratio is increased in PTSD subjects (mean = .408, SD = .275) as compared to the controls (mean = .213, SD = .126, two tailed t, p = .024).
Conclusions: This study provides evidence that PTSD is associated with impaired gating to nonstartle trauma-neutral auditory stimuli.