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Psychiatry Res. 2010 Jul 30;178(2):236-43. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2009.11.012. Epub 2010 May 16.

Heritability of acoustic startle magnitude, prepulse inhibition, and startle latency in schizophrenia and control families.

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Mental Health Service, Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Decatur ,GA 30033, USA.


Prepulse inhibition (PPI) is an acoustic startle paradigm that has been used as an operational measure of sensorimotor gating. Many patients with schizophrenia have impaired PPI, and several lines of evidence suggest that PPI may represent a heritable endophenotype in this disease. We examined startle magnitude and latencies in 40 schizophrenia patients, 58 first-degree relatives of these patients, and 100 healthy controls. After removing low-startlers, we investigated PPI and startle habituation in 34 schizophrenia patients, 43 relatives, and 86 control subjects. Heritability analyses were conducted using a variance-component approach. We found significant heritability of 45% for PPI at the 60-ms interval and 67% for startle magnitude. Onset latency heritability estimates ranged between 39% and 90% across trial types, and those for peak latency ranged from 29% to 68%. Heritability of startle habituation trended toward significance at 31%. We did not detect differences between controls and either schizophrenia patients or their family members for PPI, startle magnitude, or habituation. Startle latencies were generally longer in schizophrenia patients than controls. The heritability findings give impetus to applying genetic analyses to PPI variables, and suggest that startle latency may also be a useful measure in the study of potential endophenotypes for schizophrenia.

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