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PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45123. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045123. Epub 2012 Sep 11.

Prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle reflex as a function of the frequency difference between prepulse and background sounds in mice.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, Faculty of Medicine, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.



Prepulse inhibition (PPI) depicts the effects of a weak sound preceding strong acoustic stimulus on acoustic startle response (ASR). Previous studies suggest that PPI is influenced by physical parameters of prepulse sound such as intensity and preceding time. The present study characterizes the impact of prepulse tone frequency on PPI.


Seven female C57BL mice were used in the present study. ASR was induced by a 100 dB SPL white noise burst. After assessing the effect of background sounds (white noise and pure tones) on ASR, PPI was tested by using prepulse pure tones with the background tone of either 10 or 18 kHz. The inhibitory effect was assessed by measuring and analyzing the changes in the first peak-to-peak magnitude, root mean square value, duration and latency of the ASR as the function of frequency difference between prepulse and background tones.


Our data showed that ASR magnitude with pure tone background varied with tone frequency and was smaller than that with white noise background. Prepulse tone systematically reduced ASR as the function of the difference in frequency between prepulse and background tone. The 0.5 kHz difference appeared to be a prerequisite for inducing substantial ASR inhibition. The frequency dependence of PPI was similar under either a 10 or 18 kHz background tone.


PPI is sensitive to frequency information of the prepulse sound. However, the critical factor is not tone frequency itself, but the frequency difference between the prepulse and background tones.

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