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Heart Rate Variability: Pre-Deployment Predictor of Post-Deployment PTSD Symptoms

Jeffrey M. Pyne MD, Joseph I. Constans PhD, Mark D. Wiederhold MD PhD FACP, Douglas P. Gibson PsyD MPH MAJ, Timothy Kimbrell MD, Teresa L. Kramer PhD, Jeffery A. Pitcock MPH, Xiaotong Han MS, D. Keith Williams PhD, Don Chartrandi, Richard N. Gevirtz PhD, James Spira PhD MPH, Brenda K. Wiederhold PhD MBA BCB BCN, Rollin McCraty PhD, Thomas R. McCune MD COL

Elsevier, Biological Psychology Volume 121, Part A, December 2016, Pages 91-98.

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Heart rate variability is a physiological measure associated with autonomic nervous system activity. Thisstudy hypothesized that lower pre-deployment HRV would be associated with higher post-deploymentpost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Three-hundred-forty-three Army National Guard sol-diers enrolled in the Warriors Achieving Resilience (WAR) study were analyzed. The primary outcomewas PTSD symptom severity using the PTSD Checklist – Military version (PCL) measured at baseline,3- and 12-month post-deployment. Heart rate variability predictor variables included: high frequencypower (HF) and standard deviation of the normal cardiac inter-beat interval (SDNN). Generalized linearmixed models revealed that the pre-deployment PCL*ln(HF) interaction term was significant (p < 0.0001).Pre-deployment SDNN was not a significant predictor of post-deployment PCL. Covariates included age,pre-deployment PCL, race/ethnicity, marital status, tobacco use, childhood abuse, pre-deployment trau-matic brain injury, and previous combat zone deployment. Pre-deployment heart rate variability predictspost-deployment PTSD symptoms in the context of higher pre-deployment PCL scores.