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Biol Psychiatry. 1999 Aug 15;46(4):542-50.

Affective startle modulation in clinical depression: preliminary findings.

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1
Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Modulation of the startle reflex by affective foreground stimuli was investigated in a group receiving inpatient treatment for major depressive episodes (n = 14) and an age and gender matched nondepressed group (n = 14).

METHODS:

Participants viewed 27 pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant pictures chosen from the International Affective Picture System. Acoustic startle probes were presented during picture viewing, and participants also rated the affective qualities of the pictures.

RESULTS:

While ratings of the pictures were largely similar between the depressed and nondepressed groups, they displayed dissimilar patterns of startle modulation. In the nondepressed group, blinks elicited during unpleasant pictures were significantly larger than during pleasant pictures, whereas the depressed group failed to show this effect. Analyses, which separated the depressed participants into moderate and severe groups based on Beck Depression Inventory scores, revealed that while the moderately depressed group also showed a normal pattern of startle modulation, the severely depressed showed potentiated startles during the pleasant pictures.

CONCLUSIONS:

These preliminary results suggest that severely depressed patients may respond to some pleasant stimuli as if they are aversive, possibly because such stimuli are seen as signals of frustrative nonreward.

PMID:
10459405
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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