Heart Rate Response to Fear Conditioning and Virtual Reality in Subthreshold PTSD
[Technical Report, Book Chapter]
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA LOS ANGELES
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Posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD is a significant health concern for U.S. military service members SMs returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. Early intervention to prevent chronic disability requires greater understanding of subthreshold PTSD symptoms, which are associated with impaired physical health, mental health, and risk for delayed onset PTSD. We report a comparison of physiologic responses for recently deployed SMs with high and low subthreshold PTSD symptoms, respectively, to a fear conditioning task and novel virtual reality paradigm Virtual Iraq. The high symptom group demonstrated elevated heart rate HR response during fear conditioning. Virtual reality sequences evoked significant HR responses which predicted variance of the PTSD Checklist-Military Version self-report. Our results support the value of physiologic assessment during fear conditioning and combat-related virtual reality exposure as complementary tools in detecting subthreshold PTSD symptoms in Veterans.