Psychophysiological Reactivity in Child Sexual Abuse

Galit Ben-Amitay*, Nir Kimchi, Leo Wolmer, Paz Toren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sexual abuse has physiological and emotional implications. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the neurobiological sequels of childhood sexual trauma by monitoring physiological variables among sexually abused girls and women compared to controls. We assessed posttrauma and traumatic life events of 35 females sexually abused in their childhood (age range 7-51 years) and 25 control females (age range 7-54 years). Electroencephalography, frontalis electromyography, electrodermal activity, and heart rate parameters were recorded while watching sets of pictures representing neutral and trauma-suggestive stimuli. A minority of participants met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. Abused females displayed significant elevations in heart rate, electromyography, and electroencephalography while viewing allusive stimuli and elevated heart rate while viewing neutral stimuli. The dysfunctional regulation of the physiological stress system associated with child sexual abuse may endanger the victims with various stress and anxiety disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-200
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Child Sexual Abuse
Issue number2
StatePublished - 17 Feb 2016


  • Electrodermal activity
  • electroencephalography
  • electromyography
  • heart rate
  • post-traumatic stress disorder


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