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Test-retest reliability of prepulse inhibition (PPI) and PPI correlation with working memory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 August 2022

Florian Freudenberg*
Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital, Goethe University, Frankfurt Heinrich Hoffmann Straße 10, 60528 Frankfurt, Germany
Heike Althen
Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital, Goethe University, Frankfurt Heinrich Hoffmann Straße 10, 60528 Frankfurt, Germany
Kim Falk
Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital, Goethe University, Frankfurt Heinrich Hoffmann Straße 10, 60528 Frankfurt, Germany
Robert A. Bittner
Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital, Goethe University, Frankfurt Heinrich Hoffmann Straße 10, 60528 Frankfurt, Germany Ernst Strüngmann Institute for Neuroscience (ESI) in Cooperation with Max Planck Society, Deutschordenstraße 46, 60528 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Andreas Reif
Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital, Goethe University, Frankfurt Heinrich Hoffmann Straße 10, 60528 Frankfurt, Germany
Michael M. Plichta
Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital, Goethe University, Frankfurt Heinrich Hoffmann Straße 10, 60528 Frankfurt, Germany
Author for correspondence: Florian Freudenberg, Email:



Sensorimotor gating is experimentally operationalized by the prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the startle response (SR). Previous studies suggest high test-retest reliability of PPI and potential correlation with working memory (WM). Here, we aimed to validate and extend the test-retest reliability of PPI in healthy humans and its correlation with WM performance.


We applied an acoustic startle PPI paradigm with four different prepulse intensities (64, 68, 72 and 76 dB) and two different WM tasks [n-back, change detection task (CDT)] in a group of 26 healthy adults (final sample size n = 23). To assess test-retest reliability, we performed all tests on two separate days ~27 days (range: 21–32 days) apart.


We were able to confirm high test-retest reliability of the PPI with a mean intraclass correlation (ICC) of > 0.80 and significant positive correlation of PPI with n-back but not with CDT performance. Detailed analysis showed that PPI across all prepulse intensities significantly correlated with both the 2-back and 0-back conditions, suggesting regulation by cross-conditional processes (e.g. attention). However, when removing the 0-back component from the 2-back data, we found a specific and significant correlation with WM for the 76-dB PPI condition.


With the present study, we were able to confirm the high test-retest reliability of the PPI in humans and could validate and expand on its correlation with WM performance.

Original Article
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Scandinavian College of Neuropsychopharmacology

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These authors are contributed equally to this work (shared first-authorship).


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