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J Abnorm Psychol. 2008 Feb;117(1):1-15. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.117.1.1.

The chronometry of affective startle modulation in unipolar depression.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37203, USA.


Affective startle eyeblink modulation by unipolar depressed and nondepressed participants was assessed during the anticipation and viewing of emotional pictures. Anticipatory startle probes were presented at 2,000 ms and 750 ms before picture onset. Startle probes during picture viewing were presented at 300 ms and 3,500-4,500 ms after picture onset. Although nondepressed participants demonstrated the predicted quadratic and linear patterns of responding in the 2,000-ms anticipatory and 3,500-4,500-ms viewing conditions, respectively, depressed participants were not significantly responsive to differences among picture valence categories at these probe conditions. There were no between-groups differences in startle modulation at the other two probe intervals, in picture ratings, or in behavioral responses to pictures. There was also little evidence of hyperresponsivity to negatively valenced stimuli in the depressed group. These results indicate that depression-related affective hyporesponsivity extended to startle modulation but that the nature and magnitude of the differences between depressed and nondepressed individuals were conditional on the specific cognitive and motivational processes recruited at different points in time.

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