The effect of nicotine and trauma context on acoustic startle in smokers with and without posttraumatic stress disorder.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

RATIONALE: Exaggerated startle response is a prominent feature of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) although results examining differences in the acoustic startle response (ASR) between those with and without PTSD are mixed. One variable that may affect ASR among persons with PTSD is smoking. Individuals with PTSD are more likely to smoke and have greater difficulty quitting smoking. While smokers with PTSD report that smoking provides significant relief of negative affect and PTSD symptoms, the effects of smoking or nicotine deprivation on startle reactivity among smokers with PTSD are unknown. OBJECTIVES: The purposes of the current study were to (1) examine baseline acoustic startle response (ASR) in smokers with and without PTSD under conditions of overnight abstinence, (2) evaluate the effect of smoking on ASR, and (3) evaluate the contextual effects of trauma versus neutral script presentations. METHODS: ASR was measured among 48 smokers with and without PTSD in the context of a 2 (group: PTSD vs. non-PTSD) x 2 (context: trauma vs. neutral) x 3 (smoking condition: usual brand cigarette vs. denicotinized cigarette vs. no smoking) design. RESULTS: Effects of modest size indicated that (1) PTSD participants demonstrated higher ASR (2) compared to non-PTSD participants, PTSD participants reported greater negative affect following a trauma-related script, and (3) following a trauma-related script and smoking a usual brand cigarette, PTSD participants demonstrated higher ASR. CONCLUSIONS: Although many smokers with PTSD report that smoking reduces PTSD symptoms, results suggest that smoking may actually potentiate or maintain an exaggerated startle response.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Calhoun, PS; Wagner, HR; McClernon, FJ; Lee, S; Dennis, MF; Vrana, SR; Clancy, CP; Collie, CF; Johnson, YC; Beckham, JC

Published Date

  • May 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 215 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 379 - 389

PubMed ID

  • 21188354

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC3270823

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1432-2072

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s00213-010-2144-9


  • eng

Conference Location

  • Germany