Women with posttraumatic stress disorder have larger decreases in heart rate variability during stress tasks

Int J Psychophysiol. 2009 Sep;73(3):257-64. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2009.04.003. Epub 2009 Apr 15.


The relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and high frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV) was investigated during a resting baseline period and two 4-minute laboratory speech tasks. Participants were 20 women with PTSD and 20 age- and gender-matched controls. Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) cardiac control was measured as HF-HRV (0.12-0.40 Hz) using power spectrum analysis. Participants with PTSD had significantly greater reductions in HF-HRV during two speech tasks (trauma recall and mental arithmetic) than control. These results suggest that PTSD is related to the magnitude of decrease in parasympathetic cardiac control during stress in women. Health implications of altered PNS activity associated with PTSD deserve further study.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Electrocardiography / methods
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychometrics
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Young Adult