Pupil Response to Threat in Trauma-Exposed Individuals With or Without PTSD

Michele Cascardi, Davine Armstrong, Leeyup Chung, Denis Paré

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


An infrequently studied and potentially promising physiological marker for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is pupil response. This study tested the hypothesis that pupil responses to threat would be significantly larger in trauma-exposed individuals with PTSD compared to those without PTSD. Eye-tracking technology was used to evaluate pupil response to threatening and neutral images. Recruited for participation were 40 trauma-exposed individuals; 40.0% (n = 16) met diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Individuals with PTSD showed significantly more pupil dilation to threat-relevant stimuli compared to the neutral elements (Cohen's d = 0.76), and to trauma-exposed controls (Cohen's d = 0.75). Pupil dilation significantly accounted for 12% of variability in PTSD after time elapsed since most recent trauma, cumulative violence exposure, and trait anxiety were statistically adjusted. The final logistic regression model was associated with 85% of variability in PTSD status and correctly classified 93.8% of individuals with PTSD and 95.8% of those without. Pupil reactivity showed promise as a physiological marker for PTSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-374
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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