De novo conditioning in trauma-exposed individuals with and without posttraumatic stress disorder

J Abnorm Psychol. 2000 May;109(2):290-8.


Differential conditioning was assessed in 15 medication-free individuals meeting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; American Psychiatric Association, 1994) criteria for chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 18 trauma-exposed individuals who never developed PTSD (non-PTSD). Conditioned stimuli (CSs) were colored circles, and the unconditioned stimulus was a "highly annoying" electrical stimulus. Individuals with PTSD had higher resting heart rate (HR) and skin conductance (SC) levels and produced larger SC orienting responses. During conditioning, the PTSD group showed larger differential SC, HR, and electromyogram responses to the reinforced vs. nonreinforced stimuli (CS+ vs. CS-) compared with the non-PTSD group. Only PTSD participants continued to show differential SC responses to CS+ vs. CS- during extinction trials. Results suggest that individuals with PTSD have higher sympathetic nervous system arousal at the time of conditioning and are more conditionable than trauma-exposed individuals without PTSD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal*
  • Avoidance Learning
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Conditioning, Psychological*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response*
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology