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Biol Psychol. 2008 Apr;78(1):10-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2007.12.005. Epub 2007 Dec 23.

Baseline and affective startle modulation by angry and neutral faces in 4-8-year-old anxious and non-anxious children.

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School of Psychology, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Qld 4222, Australia. <>


The present study examined the magnitudes of startle blink reflexes and electrodermal responses in 4-8-year-old high anxious children (N=14) and non-anxious controls (N=11). Responses were elicited by 16 auditory startle trials during a baseline phase prior to an affective modulation phase involving 12 startle trials presented during angry and neutral faces. Results showed significant response habituation across baseline trials and equivalent response magnitudes between groups during the baseline phase. The modulation of response magnitudes during angry and neutral faces did not differ significantly in either group. However, high anxious children showed larger responses overall compared with non-anxious control children during the affective modulation phase. Moreover, greater anxiety severity and larger startle reflexes were associated with poorer accuracy in rating neutral faces as neutral in high anxious children. Results may reflect elevated reactivity to threat contexts in 4-8-year-old high anxious versus non-anxious children.

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