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Laterality. 2013;18(4):460-75. doi: 10.1080/1357650X.2012.704038. Epub 2012 Aug 1.

Is startle a lateralised response in early infancy?

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  • 1Dipartimento di Scienze Umane and Neuroscience Centre, University of Ferrara and National Institute of Neuroscience, Ferrara, Italy.


The aim of the study was to explore whether the acoustic startle response shows signs of early lateralisation. Using non-invasive startle measurements (Automated Infant Motor Movement Startle Seat and Facial Action Coding System), an analysis of response latencies and intensities on the right and left body sides was performed, investigating the presence of asymmetries on the whole-body startle and on the facial component of the startle motor pattern in a group of 5-month-old infants. The findings suggest that the infant whole-body startle is a lateralised response, characterised by a right bias latency. This lateralisation could reflect an underlying lateralised organisation of the infant startle neural circuitry. On the other hand, the analysis of the facial component of the startle motor pattern did not reveal any significant asymmetry. The discrepancy found in the whole-body response and in the startle facial component will be discussed, reflecting on the limits of the adopted methodologies. The use of a high-speed camcorder might allow future research to analyse more in depth the startle fast face responses.

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