Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 57–69 | Cite as

Peak High-Frequency HRV and Peak Alpha Frequency Higher in PTSD

  • Helané WahbehEmail author
  • Barry S. Oken


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.


Posttraumatic stress disorder Combat veterans Heart rate variability Peak alpha frequency Biofeedback 



This work was supported in part by National Institute of Health grants T32AT002688, K01AT004951, U19AT002656, UL1RR024140, K24AT005121, and a Tartar Trust Grant. Special thanks to Roger Ellingson, Irina Fonareva, Jennifer Bishop and Elena Goodrich for their assistance with this study.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neurology, Oregon Health & Science UniversityPortlandUSA

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