In adults, short-lead prepulse inhibition and long-lead prepulse
facilitation of startle are greater during attended than ignored
prestimuli. To examine these phenomena in children, fourteen
9- to 12-year-old boys completed a tone discrimination task
in two sessions separated by 1 week. During each tone series,
participants attended to one pitch and ignored the other. Startle
probes (102 dB) were presented 120, 240, 2,000 or 4,500 ms
following the onset of two-thirds of tones, and during one-third
of intertrial intervals. Eyeblink EMG startle was recorded.
Percent prepulse inhibition at 120 ms was greater for attended
than ignored stimuli in Session 1 but not Session 2. Long-lead
prepulse facilitation was marginally greater for attended than
ignored tones and did not vary across sessions. Test–retest
reliability was moderate during attended prestimuli but was
modest during ignored prestimuli. Reliability of attentional
modification was poorest at 120 ms and strongest at 4,500 ms.
Overall, this study extended prior work in adults and provided
a basis for further study of controlled attentional modification
of startle in children.