Changes in trauma-potentiated startle with treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder in combat Veterans

E. Jenna Robison-Andrew, Elizabeth R. Duval, C. Beau Nelson, Aileen Echiverri-Cohen, Nicholas Giardino, Andrew Defever, Seth D. Norrholm, Tanja Jovanovic, Barbara O. Rothbaum, Israel Liberzon, Sheila A.M. Rauch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Emotional Processing Theory proposes that habituation to trauma-related stimuli is an essential component of PTSD treatment. However, the mechanisms underlying treatment-related habituation are not well understood. We examined one psychophysiological measure that holds potential for elucidating the biological processes involved in treatment response: trauma-potentiated startle response. Seventeen OEF/OIF combat Veterans participated in the study and completed three assessments using a trauma-potentiated startle paradigm over PTSD treatment. Results revealed different patterns of trauma-potentiated startle across treatment for responders and nonresponders, but no differences in within task habituation. Responders showed an increase followed by a decrease in trauma-potentiated startle, whereas nonresponders showed a relatively flat response profile. Results suggested that PTSD patients who engage with emotional content as demonstrated by greater startle reactivity may be more likely to respond to PTSD treatment. Furthermore, trauma-potentiated startle shows promise as an objective measure of psychophysiological responses involved in PTSD recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-362
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2014


  • CBT
  • Combat
  • Exposure therapy
  • PTSD
  • Trauma
  • Treatment
  • Veteran

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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