• Startle response;
  • Dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4);
  • Emotion;
  • Affective pictures


The affect-modulated acoustic startle response (ASR) might be a promising indicator for emotional reactivity as an endophenotype (an intermediate level between genetics and phenotypes), which we expected to be associated with the DRD4 polymorphism. Therefore, the affect-modulated ASR was examined in 114 healthy volunteers, 74 lacking the DRD4 7R allele (7R-absent group) and 41 with at least one DRD4 7R allele (7R group). Results revealed the well-known affect–modulated ASR in the 7R-absent group. The 7R group, however, was characterized by a blunted affect-modulated ASR, especially by a reduced startle potentiation toward unpleasant pictures. Associations between the exploratory assessed 5-HTT, COMT, and DAT polymorphisms and affect-modulated ASR were not found. Results speak for the importance of the DRD4 polymorphism in modulating emotional responses and also for the usefulness of the affect-modulated ASR as an endophenotype.