Psychophysiologic reactivity to trauma-related, script-driven imagery procedures is being seen as a promising biological predictor of a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, according to a joint study conducted by researchers from a number of institutions, including Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), National Center for PSTD, VA Boston Healthcare System, Suffolk University, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University. The study has been published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
Approximately seven to 12 percent of the general adult population in the U.S. suffers with PTSD. This disease develops after an inciting trauma. PTSD commonly affects military personnel who have faced combat, victims of sexual assault, people from conflict-ridden areas of the world, and patients who have survived intensive care unit admissions.
The researchers analyzed data from five prior studies with 150 study participants: 78 diagnosed with PTSD and 72 who had experienced trauma but did not develop PTSD. Researchers studied four main predictor classes including the measurement of psychophysiologic reactivity to trauma-related scripts; psychophysiologic reactivity to other stressful but non-trauma related scripts; self-reported distress in response to trauma-related scripts; and self-reported distress to other stressful but non-trauma-related scripts. Of the four indices examined, psychophysiologic reactivity to trauma-related cues appeared to be the most robust predictor of PTSD.