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The relationship between prepulse detection and prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle reflex

  • PEGGY POSTMA (a1) (a2), VEENA KUMARI (a1) (a3), MELISSA HINES (a2) and JEFFREY A. GRAY (a1)

Abstract

Prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the startle reflex is defined as the attenuation of the startle response to a startling stimulus (pulse), when such a stimulus is briefly preceded by a stimulus of subthreshold intensity (prepulse). PPI is thought to be neither learned nor due to conscious response inhibition, as it occurs at stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) too short to enable the activation of a volitional response. The present study explored the latter of these assertions by investigating (a) the degree to which human subjects are able to detect prepulses at SOAs of 30, 60 and 120 ms, and (b) whether such detection is related to inhibition. Startle eyeblink reflex and detection were measured in 39 participants subjected to an acoustic startle paradigm. Results revealed a significant trend in prepulse detection according to SOA, with highest detection rates at the 120-ms SOA (75%). However, trials on which detection occurred did not differ from trials without detection on measures of startle inhibition. This suggests that PPI is independent of awareness of the prepulse.

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Address reprint requests to: Peggy Postma, Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK. E-mail: p.postma@iop.kcl.ac.uk.

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The relationship between prepulse detection and prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle reflex

  • PEGGY POSTMA (a1) (a2), VEENA KUMARI (a1) (a3), MELISSA HINES (a2) and JEFFREY A. GRAY (a1)

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