Filion DL, Dawson ME, Schell AM. The psychological significance of human startle eyeblink modification: a review. Biol Psychol 47: 1-43

University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, United States
Biological Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.4). 01/1998; 47(1):1-43. DOI: 10.1016/S0301-0511(97)00020-3
Source: PubMed


The human startle eyeblink reflex is reliably modified by both cognitive and emotional processes. This review provides a comprehensive survey of the current literature on human startle modification and its psychological significance. Issues raised for short lead interval startle inhibition include its interpretation as a measure of protection of processing, sensorimotor gating and early attentional processing. For long lead interval effects, interpretations related to attentional and emotional processing are discussed. Also reviewed are clinical applications to information processing dysfunctions in the schizophrenia spectrum disorders, and to emotional processing disorders. Finally, an integrative summary that incorporates most of the cognitive findings is presented and directions for future research are identified regarding both cognitive and emotional modification of startle.

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Available from: Michael E Dawson
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    • "It has been proposed that the attentional shift toward the interoceptive stimulation leads to a reduced capacity of resources for processing the auditory startle-eliciting probe, leading to a reduction of startle response magnitudes. In accordance with this hypothesis, decreased startle response magnitude has been demonstrated when attention was captured by stimuli that differed from the sensory modality of the startle-eliciting probe (Anthony and Graham 1985; Filion et al. 1998, for review). "
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    ABSTRACT: The way in which the tendency to fear somatic arousal sensations (anxiety sensitivity), in interaction with the created expectations regarding arousal induction, might affect defensive responding to a symptom provocation challenge is not yet understood. The present study investigated the effect of anxiety sensitivity on autonomic arousal, startle eyeblink responses, and reported arousal and alertness to expected vs. unexpected caffeine consumption. To create a match/mismatch of expected and experienced arousal, high and low anxiety sensitive participants received caffeine vs. no drug either mixed in coffee (expectation of arousal induction) or in bitter lemon soda (no expectation of arousal induction) on four separate occasions. Autonomic arousal (heart rate, skin conductance level), respiration (end-tidal CO2, minute ventilation), defensive reflex responses (startle eyeblink), and reported arousal and alertness were recorded prior to, immediately and 30 min after beverage ingestion. Caffeine increased ventilation, autonomic arousal, and startle response magnitudes. Both groups showed comparable levels of autonomic and respiratory responses. The startle eyeblink responses were decreased when caffeine-induced arousal occurred unexpectedly, e.g., after administering caffeine in bitter lemon. This effect was more accentuated in high anxiety sensitive persons. Moreover, in high anxiety sensitive persons, the expectation of arousal (coffee consumption) led to higher subjective alertness when administering caffeine and increased arousal even if no drug was consumed. Unexpected symptom provocation leads to increased attention allocation toward feared arousal sensations in high anxiety sensitive persons. This finding broadens our understanding of modulatory mechanisms in defensive responding to bodily symptoms.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Psychopharmacology
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    • "Such attentional shifts – from the visual/tactile to the auditory domain (startle probe) – have previously been shown to inhibit defensive reflex activity (cf. Anthony & Graham, 1985; Filion, Dawson, & Schell, 1998). Regarding autonomous system activation, enhanced SCRs have been found both under conditions of instructed threat and when threatening the artificial hand during the RHI (Bradley et al., 2005; Ehrsson et al., 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: A strong link between body perception and emotional experience has been proposed. To examine the interaction between body perception and anticipatory anxiety, two well-established paradigms were combined: The rubber hand illusion (RHI) and the threat-of-shock paradigm. An artificial hand and the participants' own hand (hidden from sight) were touched synchronously or asynchronously, while either threat-of-shock or safety was cued. Potentiated startle reflexes and enhanced skin conductance responses were observed during threat as compared to safety conditions, but threat conditions did not interact with illusory body perceptions. Thus, defense system activation was not modulated by altered body representations. Physiological responses increased with the sense of ownership for the artificial limb, but not with proprioceptive drift towards its location. The results indicate that ownership ratings and proprioceptive drift capture different aspects of the RHI. The study presents a new approach to investigate the relationship between body representations and emotional states. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier B.V.
    Full-text · Article · May 2015 · Biological Psychology
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    • "PPI indicates an extensive attenuation of the startle reflex that occurs when a startle eliciting stimulus, the pulse, is preceded by a weaker stimulus, the prepulse, within a timeframe of 30–500 ms [21]. More than 90% of healthy subjects show a reduction of 40–80% of the startle reflex, if a pulse is preceded by a prepulse that does not elicit a startle response itself [22]. The protection of processing hypothesis proposes that the processing of sensory stimuli is protected against interference through other irrelevant or distracting stimuli by preattentive mechanisms [21]. "
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    ABSTRACT: High functioning autism is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by deficits in social interaction and communication as well as repetitive and restrictive behavior while intelligence and general cognitive functioning are preserved. According to the weak central coherence account, individuals with autism tend to process information detail-focused at the expense of global form. This processing bias might be reflected by deficits in sensorimotor gating, a mechanism that prevents overstimulation during the transformation of sensory input into motor action. Prepulse inhibition is an operational measure of sensorimotor gating, which indicates an extensive attenuation of the startle reflex that occurs when a startling pulse is preceded by a weaker stimulus, the prepulse. In the present study, prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle was compared between 17 adults with high functioning autism and 17 sex-, age-, and intelligence-matched controls by means of electromyography. Results indicate that participants with high functioning autism exhibited significantly higher startle amplitudes than the control group. However, groups did not differ with regard to PPI or habituation of startle. These findings challenge the results of two previous studies that reported prepulse inhibition deficits in high-functioning autism and suggest that sensorimotor gating is only impaired in certain subgroups with autism spectrum disorder.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2014 · PLoS ONE
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