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Behav Neurosci. 2003 Oct;117(5):1096-102.

Sexual orientation-related differences in prepulse inhibition of the human startle response.

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  • 1Institute of Psychiatry, Department of Psychology, University of London, England, UK.


Prepulse inhibition (PPI) refers to a reduction in the startle response to a strong sensory stimulus when this stimulus is preceded by a weaker stimulus--the prepulse. PPI reflects a nonlearned sensorimotor gating mechanism and also shows a robust gender difference, with women exhibiting lower PPI than men. The present study examined the eyeblink startle responses to acoustic stimuli of 59 healthy heterosexual and homosexual men and women. Homosexual women showed significantly masculinized PPI compared with heterosexual women, whereas no difference was observed in PPI between homosexual and heterosexual men. These data provide the first evidence for within-gender differences in basic sensorimotor gating mechanisms and implicate the known neural substrates of PPI in human sexual orientation.

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