Researchers are working on a way to diagnose PTSD in a way that's based on more than an interview with a physician. They're using sensors and virtual reality data in a new kind of diagnosis test.
In a pilot study of seven people with PTSD, seven healthy people, and 11 people with trauma but not PTSD, Andrea Webb, who is a psychophysiologist at Draper, and collaborators measured heart rate, finger pulse, respiration, and skin conductance (a measure of stress and excitement), first when the person was calm and then when he or she was shown potentially frightening scenes via virtual-reality goggles. The virtual-reality scenes became progressively more intense. For example, the first might be a helicopter flying overhead; the last might be an insurgent running toward the subject while shooting his weapon.
The researchers are still putting the data together, but they did say people with PTSD had different reactions than others without it.