Wahbeh, H. & Oken, B.S. (2013) Peak High-Frequency HRV and Peak Alpha Frequency Higher in PTSD. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback, 38: 57.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is difficult to treat and current PTSD treatments are not effective for all people. Despite limited evidence for its efficacy, some clinicians have implemented biofeedback for PTSD treatment. As a first step in constructing an effective biofeedback treatment program, we assessed respiration, electroencephalography (EEG) and heart rate variability (HRV) as potential biofeedback parameters for a future clinical trial. This cross-sectional study included 86 veterans; 59 with and 27 without PTSD. Data were collected on EEG measures, HRV, and respiration rate during an attentive resting state. Measures were analyzed to assess sensitivity to PTSD status and the relationship to PTSD symptoms. Peak alpha frequency was higher in the PTSD group (F(1,84) = 6.14, p = 0.01). Peak high-frequency HRV was lower in the PTSD group (F(2,78) = 26.5, p < 0.00005) when adjusting for respiration rate. All other EEG and HRV measures and respiration were not different between groups. Peak high-frequency HRV and peak alpha frequency are sensitive to PTSD status and may be potential biofeedback parameters for future PTSD clinical trials.