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Keywords:

  • Emotion;
  • Attention;
  • Startle;
  • Reflex modulation;
  • Prepulse inhibition;
  • Affect

Abstract

The effects of an emotional stimulus prepulse on probe startle response were examined here. Pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant pictures were viewed for 6 s, and an acoustic startle probe was presented either 300, 800, 1,300, or 3,800 ms after slide onset, or 300 or 3,800 ms after slide offset. Blink magnitude and onset latency demonstrated (a) an early (prepulse) inhibition effect in which reflexes elicited immediately after slide onset were smaller than reflexes elicited later in the viewing interval, and (b) affective modulation, in which unpleasant stimuli prompted larger reflexes than pleasant. Interactive effects of probe time and picture valence indicated attention/arousal effects early and pleasantness effects late in the picture interval. Effects of both attention and emotion can be simultaneously measured using this startle-probe paradigm, encouraging its use in both basic and clinical contexts.