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Biol Psychol. 1993 Jul;35(3):185-200.

Modification of the acoustic startle-reflex eyeblink: a tool for investigating early and late attentional processes.

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  • 1Laboratory for Attention and Motor Performance, Andrus Gerontology Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles 90089-0191.


The present experiment examined the sensitivity of short and long lead interval startle eyeblink modification to attentional processing. Eighteen college student subjects were presented with a series of intermixed high and low pitched tones and instructed to attend to tones of one pitch and to ignore tones of the other pitch. The majority of the attended and ignored tones served as prepulses for an eyeblink-eliciting burst of white noise presented at lead intervals of 60, 120, 240 and 2000 ms following prepulse onset. Results indicate that both attended and ignored prepulses produce significant startle eyeblink modification: significant blink inhibition at the 60, 120 and 240 ms short lead intervals, and blink facilitation at the 2000 ms long lead interval. In addition, compared with the ignored prepulse, the attended prepulse produced significantly greater blink inhibition at the 120 ms lead interval as well as significantly greater blink facilitation at the 2000 ms lead interval. These results suggest that both short and long lead interval startle eyeblink modification measures may be useful tools for future investigations of the early and later stages of attentional processing.

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