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Int J Psychophysiol. 2002 Feb;43(2):191-6.

Startle modulation before, during and after exposure to emotional stimuli.

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Department of Psycology, Vanderbilt University, 301 Wilson Hall, South Nashville, TN 37240, USA.


Although affective modulation of the startle reflex is a highly replicable effect, the majority of studies have administered startle probes during exposure to affective stimuli. To examine more comprehensively the temporal course of startle potentiation, we assessed blink modulation before, during and immediately after exposure to positive, negative and neutral pictures. During each trial, cues about the affective content of pictures were presented, after which acoustic startle probes were delivered either before picture onset, during picture onset or immediately after picture offset. As expected, we observed a linear relation between picture valence and startle amplitude during picture viewing. Surprisingly, startle amplitude was larger while anticipating pleasant and unpleasant pictures relative to neutral pictures. No significant effects were observed during the offset phase. These results indicate that startle modulation is conditional upon temporal factors linked to stimulus onset and offset.

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