- Spectral analysis of heart rate variability has been shown to be a reliable non-invasive test for quantitative assessment of cardiovascular autonomic regulatory responses, providing a window reflecting the interaction of sympathetic and parasympathetic tone. Alterations in autonomic function are associated with a variety of physiologic and pathophysiologic processes and may contribute substantially to morbidity and mortality. Our previous study shows that patients with post-traumatic stress disorder have significantly lower HRV compared to controls, reflecting a basal autonomic state characterized by increased sympathetic and decreased parasympathetic tone. To apply this tool to PTSD patients treated with selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors in order to assess the impact of such treatment on the autonomic dysregulation characterizing these patients. Standardized heart rate analysis was carried out in nine PTSD patients treated with SSRI agents and compared to that in a matched control group of nine healthy volunteers and in nine untreated PTSD patients, based on a 15 minute resting electrocardiogram. Our preliminary results show that the HRV parameters indicating autonomic dysregulation, which characterize PTSD patients at rest, are normalized in responding patients by use of SSRIs. Neither the clinical implications of these findings nor their physiological mechanisms are clear at present, although we presume that they reflect a central effect, since the peripheral autonomic effects of SSRIs are relatively negligible.