Baseline and affective startle modulation by angry and neutral faces in 4–8-year-old anxious and non-anxious children

School of Psychology, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Qld 4222, Australia. <>
Biological Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.4). 05/2008; 78(1):10-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2007.12.005
Source: PubMed


The present study examined the magnitudes of startle blink reflexes and electrodermal responses in 4-8-year-old high anxious children (N=14) and non-anxious controls (N=11). Responses were elicited by 16 auditory startle trials during a baseline phase prior to an affective modulation phase involving 12 startle trials presented during angry and neutral faces. Results showed significant response habituation across baseline trials and equivalent response magnitudes between groups during the baseline phase. The modulation of response magnitudes during angry and neutral faces did not differ significantly in either group. However, high anxious children showed larger responses overall compared with non-anxious control children during the affective modulation phase. Moreover, greater anxiety severity and larger startle reflexes were associated with poorer accuracy in rating neutral faces as neutral in high anxious children. Results may reflect elevated reactivity to threat contexts in 4-8-year-old high anxious versus non-anxious children.

Download full-text


Available from: David L Neumann, Jan 24, 2014
  • Source
    • "Published data on the startle response to emotional facial expressions is also rather limited and shows contradictory results. There is one study demonstrating that the affective modulation of the startle reflex to angry and happy expressions can be found in 5 month old infants (Balaban, 1995), while a recent study did not find affect modulated startle responses to neutral and angry facial expressions in four to eight year old children (Waters et al., 2008). In adults, one study with pictures of negative infant emotional faces (crying babies) did not find the expected startle modulation (Spangler et al., 2001). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We examined if emotional faces elicit physiological responses similar to pictures of emotional scenes. Forty one students viewed emotional scenes (negative, neutral, and positive) and emotional faces (angry, neutral, and happy). Heart rate, orbicularis oculi and electrodermal activity were measured continuously, and the startle reflex was elicited. Although the patterns of valence and arousal ratings were comparable, physiological response patterns differed. For scenes we replicated the valence-specific modulation of the startle response, heart rate deceleration, and the arousal-related modulation of the electrodermal response. In contrast, for faces we found valence-specific modulation only for the electrodermal response, but the startle and heart rate deceleration were modulated by arousal. Although arousal differences may account for some differences in physiological responding this shows that not all emotional material that is decoded similarly leads to the same psychophysiological output.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2011 · International journal of psychophysiology: official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology
  • Source
    • "In this regard we note that age was not related to startle responses within the neurotypical group, age did not moderate startle responses overall, and results with a subset of participants matched on age were highly similar. Furthermore, startle eyeblink modulation has been demonstrated in samples of children as young as 4–8 years old (Waters et al. 2008) and 4–7 years old (Essex et al. 2003). However, it is possible that affective modulation of the startle responses may be affected by development during ages 17–30, and future studies with age-matched groups are necessary. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Eyeblink and postauricular reflexes to standardized affective images were examined in individuals without (n = 37) and with (n = 20) autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Affective reflex modulation in control participants replicated previous findings. The ASD group, however, showed anomalous reflex modulation patterns, despite similar self-report ratings of pictures. Specifically, the ASD group demonstrated exaggerated eyeblink responses to pleasant images and exaggerated postauricular responses to unpleasant images. Although ASD is often conceptualized in terms of specific deficits in affective responding in the social domain, the present results suggest a domain-general pattern of deficits in affective processing and that such deficits may arise at an early phase in the stream of information processing.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2010 · Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
  • Source
    • "Finally, as previously discussed overall and baseline startle differentiate at risk and clinically anxious children from healthy controls but startle potentiation has failed to differentiate such groups (Grillon et al., 1997; Waters et al., 2008b). Given a scarcity of startle studies comparing anxious and healthy school-age children, in both baseline and emotion modulated startle, it is clear that more research is needed to elucidate this question. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A film paradigm was developed to examine baseline and emotion modulated startle across a broad age range from preschool to adulthood. The paradigm was tested in children (3-, 5-, 7-, and 9-year-olds) and adults (total N = 122). The paradigm elicited a similar startle potentiation pattern across age groups; however, baseline startle changed with age: 3- and 5-year-olds showed lower response probability and magnitude of baseline startle than adults. Females exhibited larger baseline startle response probability and overall magnitude than did males; however, no sex by emotion modulated startle interaction was noted. Anxiety measures were obtained for all children. Individual differences in anxiety were associated with baseline startle magnitude among older but not younger children. No association of anxiety with startle potentiation was noted. Overall the film paradigm was applicable across a wide developmental span, revealing potential developmental and gender differences in baseline startle magnitude and response probability.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2010 · Developmental Psychobiology
Show more