Physiologic responses to loud tones in Vietnam veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder

J Abnorm Psychol. 1995 Feb;104(1):75-82. doi: 10.1037//0021-843x.104.1.75.


The authors evaluated eyeblink and autonomic components of the acoustic startle response in combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Thirty-seven Vietnam combat veterans with current PTSD and 19 combat veterans without PTSD were exposed to 15 consecutive 95-dB, 500-ms, 1000-Hz tones with 0-ms rise and fall times, while orbicularis oculi electromyogram, skin conductance, and heart rate responses were measured. PTSD veterans produced larger averaged electromyographic and heart rate responses, and a slower decline in skin conductance responses, across the 15 tone presentations compared to non-PTSD veterans. Results of this study provide laboratory support for an exaggerated startle response in PTSD and replicate and extend previous findings of increased autonomic responses to loud tone stimuli in this disorder.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation*
  • Adult
  • Blinking / physiology*
  • Combat Disorders / psychology
  • Electromyography
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Reflex, Startle
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Vietnam