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Keywords:

  • Startle;
  • Reflex modulation;
  • Emotion;
  • Imagery;
  • Skin conductance;
  • Heart rate;
  • Facial EMG

Abstract

In this study, I examined emotional modulation of the eyeblink, skin conductance, and cardiac responses to an acoustic startle (103 dB[A] white noise) probe. Twenty-five female and 17 male undergraduates imagined pleasant, neutral, and fearful situations in a tone-cued imagery procedure. Both the eyeblink and skin conductance responses to startle probes were potentiated (larger magnitude, shorter latency) during fear as compared with neutral and pleasant imagery. The amount of emotional modulation in these two response systems was significantly correlated both between and within subjects. The startle probe interrupted ongoing cardiac deceleration during the imagery task, but this interruption was not related to the emotional content of imagery.