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Acoustic startle reactivity while processing reward-related food cues during food deprivation: Evidence from women in different menstrual cycle phases and men

Authors

  • Diana S. Ferreira de Sá,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Psychobiology, Division of Clinical Psychophysiology, University of Trier, Trier, Germany
    • Address reprint requests to: Diana Ferreira de Sá, Institute of Psychobiology, University of Trier, Johanniterufer 15, D-54290 Trier, Germany. E-mail: s1diferr@uni-trier.de

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  • Debora E. Plein,

    1. Institute of Psychobiology, Division of Clinical Psychophysiology, University of Trier, Trier, Germany
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  • André Schulz,

    1. Research Unit INSIDE, Division of Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Luxembourg, Walferdange, Luxembourg
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  • Melly S. Oitzl,

    1. Division of Medical Pharmacology, Leiden/Amsterdam Center for Drug Research, University of Leiden, Leiden, The Netherlands
    2. Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, Center for Neuroscience, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Terry D. Blumenthal,

    1. Department of Psychology, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA
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  • Hartmut Schächinger

    1. Institute of Psychobiology, Division of Clinical Psychophysiology, University of Trier, Trier, Germany
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  • This project was funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft: DFG), grant GRK 1389/1, and the Netherlands Scientific Organization NWO, grant DN 95-420. Diana S. Ferreira de Sá is supported by a PhD fellowship SFRH/BD/73681/2010 from Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, Portugal. We thank our student assistants, Caroline Ott and Anna M. Stertz, for their help with data acquisition.

Abstract

Previous research has shown that food deprivation enhances the acoustic startle reflex when it is elicited during presentation of visual food cues. Frustrative nonreward may explain this effect, since visual food cues are also rated to be more appetitive and arousing during food deprivation. However, the impact of menstrual cycle and sex on this effect remains unclear, and it is also not known whether this effect is influenced by hunger and motivation to eat. According to a within-study design, 20 healthy women in different menstrual cycle phases and 14 healthy men participated twice, in normal and food-deprived conditions. After 18 h of food deprivation, acoustic startle was attenuated by appetitive nonfood foreground pictures, but enhanced by presentation of food pictures. No differences between menstrual cycle phases and sexes appeared. The effect correlated with hunger changes, suggesting that motivational factors play a role.

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