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Dionysus psych wisc

The Startle Reflex:

A Measure of Emotion and “Attention”

John J. Curtin, Ph.D.

University of Wisconsin, Madison


References

REFERENCES

Anthony, B. J. (1985). In the blink of an eye: Implications of the reflex modification for information processing. In P. K. Ackles, J. R. Jennings, & M. G. M. Coles (Eds.), Advances in Psychophysiology (Vol. 1, pp. 167-218). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press

Bradley, M. M., Cuthbert, B. N., & Lang, P. J. (1990). Startle reflex modification: Emotion or attention? Psychophysiology, 27, 513-522.

Bradley, M. M., Cuthbert, B. N., & Lang, P. J. (1991). Startle and emotion: Lateral acoustic probes and the bilateral blink. Psychophysiology., 28, 285-295.

Bradley, M. M., Cuthbert, B. N., & Lang, P. J. (1993). Pictures as prepulse: Attention and emotion in startle modification. Psychophysiology., 30, 541-545.

Bradley, M. M. & Lang, P. J. (2000). Affective reactions to acoustic stimuli. Psychophysiology., 37, 204-215.

Bradley, M. M., Lang, P. J., & Cuthbert, B. N. (1993). Emotion, novelty, and the startle reflex: Habituation in humans. Behavioral Neuroscience., 107, 970-980.

Bradley, M. M., Cuthbert, B. N., & Lang, P. J. (1996). Picture media and emotion: Effects of a sustained affective content. Psychophysiology., 33, 662-670.

Bradley, M. M., Lang, P. J., & Cuthbert, B. N. (1993). Emotion, novelty, and the startle reflex: Habituation in humans. Behavioral Neuroscience., 107, 970-980.


References1

REFERENCES

  • Curtin, J. J., Lang, A. R., Patrick, C. J., & Stritzke, W. G. K. (1998). Alcohol and fear-potentiated startle: The role of competing cognitive demands in the stress-reducing effects of intoxication. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 107, 547-565.

  • Curtin, J. J., Patrick, C. J., Lang, A. R., Cacioppo, J. T., & Birbaumer, N. (2001). Alcohol affects emotion through cognition. Psychological Science., 12, 527-531.

  • Cuthbert, B. N., Bradley, M. M., & Lang, P. J. (1996). Probing picture perception: Activation and emotion. Psychophysiology., 33, 103-111.

  • Cuthbert, B. N. Schupp, H., Bradley, M., McManis, M., & Lang P. (1998). Probing affective picturesL Attended startle and tone probes. Psychophysiology, 35, 344-347.

  • Dichter, G. S., Tomarken, A. J., & Baucom, B. R. (2002). Startle modulation before, during and after exposure to emotional stimuli. International Journal of Psychophysiology., 43, 191-196.

  • Grillon, C., Davis, M., & Phillips, R. G. (1997). Fear-potentiated startle conditioning in humans: Explicit and contextual cue conditioning following paired versus unpaired training. Psychophysiology, 34, 451-458.

  • Miller, M. W., Curtin, J. J., & Patrick, C. J. (1999). A startle probe methodology for investigating the effects of active avoidance on negative emotional reactivity. Biological Psychology., 50, 235-257.


References2

REFERENCES

  • Miller, M. W., Patrick, C. J., & Levenston, G. K. (2002). Affective imagery and the startle response: Probing mechanisms of modulation during pleasant scenes, personal experiences, and discrete negative emotions. Psychophysiology, 39, 519-529

  • Patrick, C. J., Berthot, B. D., & Moore, J. D. (1996). Diazepam blocks fear-potentiated startle in humans. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105 , 89-96.

  • Spence, K. W., & Runquist, W. H. (1958). Temporal effects of conditioned fear on the eyelid reflex. Journal of Experimental Psychology., 55, 613-616.

  • Stritzke, W. G. K., Patrick, C. J., & Lang, A. R. (1995). Alcohol and human emotion: A multidimensional analysis incorporating startle-probe methodology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 104, 114-122.

  • van-Boxtel, A., Boelhouwer, A. J. W., & Bos, A. R. (1998). Optimal EMG signal bandwidth and interelectrode distance for the recording of acoustic, electrocutaneous and photic blink reflexes. Psychophysiology, 35, 690-697.

  • Vrana, S. R., Spence, E. L., & Lang, P. J. (1988). The startle probe response: A new measure of emotion? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 97, 487-491.


The startle reflex and emotion

The Startle Reflex and Emotion

Response matching hypothesis

  • Startle reflex is a defensive response

  • The magnitude of the reflex is INCREASED when the organism is fearful (fear potentiated startle; FPS)

  • The magnitude of the reflex is DECREASED when the organism is “feeling good”***


Measurement of the startle reflex

Measurement of the Startle Reflex

Measurement

  • Elicited with brief burst of white noise (“startle probe”) presented over headphones

  • Eyeblink response is indexed by recording electrical activity in the orbicularis oculi muscle


Dionysus psych wisc

Neural Circuitry of Fear, Ledoux et al.,

Amygdala

CG

LH

PVH

RPC

Freezing

Blood

Pressure

Stress

Hormones

Startle

Reflex


Neural circuitry of fear ledoux et al

Sensory

Thalamus

Neural Circuitry of Fear, Ledoux et al.,

Amygdala

CG

LH

PVH

RPC

Auditory Fear

Stimulus

Freezing

Blood

Pressure

Stress

Hormones

Startle

Reflex


Neural circuitry of fear ledoux et al1

Auditory

Cortex

Sensory

Thalamus

Neural Circuitry of Fear, Ledoux et al.,

Amygdala

CG

LH

PVH

RPC

Auditory Fear

Stimulus

Freezing

Blood

Pressure

Stress

Hormones

Startle

Reflex


Dionysus psych wisc

Auditory

Cortex

Sensory

Thalamus

Neural Circuitry of Fear, Ledoux et al.,

Association

Cortex

Hippocampal

Formation

Amygdala

CG

LH

PVH

RPC

Auditory Fear

Stimulus

Freezing

Blood

Pressure

Stress

Hormones

Startle

Reflex


Neural circuitry of startle reflex

Neural Circuitry of Startle Reflex

  • Lesions of block FPS

  • Electrical stim enhances startle reflex

Fear conditioning/

Shock sensitization

Amygdala

Nucleus Reticularis

Pontis Caudalis (RPC)

Cochlear Root

Neurons

Spinal & Facial

Motonuerons

Abrupt noise (probe)

Startle Reflex


Fear conditioning and startle in animals

Fear Conditioning and Startle in Animals

  • Brown, Kalish, and Farber (1951) is classic animal study

  • Michael Davis and colleagues have demonstrated:

    • Increased FPS with increased shock intensity

    • Increased FPS with anxiogenics

    • Decreased FPS with anxiolytics


Fear conditioning and startle in humans

Fear Conditioning and Startle in Humans

Spence & Runquist, 1958

  • Forward and backward pairing of CS (light) with shock UCS

  • Airpuff probes presented at 500 and 4500ms post CS onset

  • Measured eyeblink closure


Attentional modulation of startle

Attentional Modulation of Startle

Attentional effects on reflex magnitude

  • Reviewed in Anthony (1985)

  • Increased if matches modality of foreground stimulus

  • Decreased as more attention is directed to foreground

    • Reaction time task (time course, covary with HR)

    • Interest level (Nudes vs. basket; tones vs. music; faces vs. blank screen)


Slide viewing paradigm

Slide Viewing Paradigm

Vrana, Spence, & Lang, 1988

  • 36 slides (12 pleasant, 12 neutral, 12 unpleasant)

  • 6s presentation with 16-24s ITI

  • 9 unpredictable probe presentations within valence and 9 ITI startles


Additional measures in slide viewing

Additional Measures in Slide Viewing


Attention or emotion in slide viewing

Attention or Emotion in Slide Viewing

Bradley, Cuthbert & Lang (1990)

  • Compared startle response to acoustic vs. visual probes during slide viewing

  • Regardless of probe modality, same direction of linear valence effect was observed


Lateralization of the reflex

Lateralization of the Reflex

Bradley, Cuthbert, and Lang (1991)

  • Monoaural probes to left and right ears during slide viewing and recorded left and right orbicularis startle response [see also, Bradley, Cuthbert and Lang, 1996]

  • No valence modulation elicited by right ear probes

  • Response is larger on ipsilateral measurement site

  • No interaction of measurement site with slide valence


Attention and valence in picture processing

Attention and Valence in Picture Processing

Cuthbert, Schupp, Bradley, McManis, & Lang (1998)

  • Tones and probes presented during slide and ITI

  • Task was to press button to indicate detection of match (e.g., probe-probe) during ITI

  • Startle response to probe displays typical valence effect

  • P3 to probes (and tones) shows attentional effect to all affective material


Imagery and startle

Imagery and Startle

Miller, Patrick, & Levenston (2002)

  • Participants trained to image standard or personal pleasant neutral or unpleasant scripts


Time course of response in slide viewing

Time Course of Response in Slide Viewing

Bradley, Cuthbert, and Lang, 1993

  • Examined startle across the slide viewing time-course

  • Early “pre-pulse”/attentional effects

  • Later valence effects


Arousal effects

Arousal Effects

Cuthbert, Bradley, & Lang, 1996

  • Varied valence (pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant) and arousal (3 levels) ratings of slides

  • 3 probe intensities (80, 95, and 105 dB)

  • Skin and HR effects vs. Startle effects


Habituation of the startle reflex

Habituation of the Startle Reflex

Bradley, M. M., Lang, P. J., & Cuthbert, B. N. (1993). Emotion, novelty, and the startle reflex: Habituation in humans. Behavioral Neuroscience., 107(6), 970-980.

Previous research with both animal and human Ss has shown that startle reflex magnitude is potentiated in an aversive stimulus context, relative to responses elicited in a neutral or appetitive context. In the present experiment, the same pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral picture stimuli were repeatedly presented to human Ss. Startle reflex habituation was assessed in each stimulus context and was compared with the habituation patterns of heart rate, electrodermal, and facial corrugator muscle responses. All systems showed initial differentiation among affective picture contents and general habituation over trials. The startle reflex alone, however, continued to differentiate among pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant pictures throughout the presentation series. These results suggest that (1) the startle probe reflex is relatively uninfluenced by stimulus novelty, (2) the startle modulatory circuit (identified with amygdala-reticular connections in animals) varies systematically with affective valence, and (3) the modulatory influence is less subject to habituation than is the obligatory startle pathway or responses in other somatic and autonomic systems.


Discrete periods in slide viewing

Discrete Periods in Slide Viewing

Dichter, Tomarken, & Baucom, 2002

  • Examined startle before (1.5-2.5s), during (3.5-4.5s) and after (1.5-2.5s) a slide viewing period

  • Valence cued with arrow followed 4s later by slide


Startle and mood effects

Startle and Mood effects

Bradley, Cuthbert, & Lang, 1996

  • Presented slides blocked on valence (24 per valence)

  • Examined slide viewing and inter-slide interval effects

  • Included startle, corrugator, SC and HR. Also, affective judgment of words


Startle during sound perception

Startle during Sound Perception

Bradley & Lang, 2000

  • 60 affective sounds (listen to example)

  • Visual startle probes

  • Observed typical linear valence effect for startle


Stress response dampening model

Stress Response Dampening Model

  • Alcohol intoxication produces a direct, pharmacological suppression of activity in the defensive (fear/anxiety) system.

  • Therefore, alcohol consumption is reinforcing -- particularly when consumed in stressful contexts.


Method

Method

Participants

  • Standard emotional slide viewing paradigm

  • 36 slides (12 pos, 12 neut, 12 neg)

  • Slides presented for 6 seconds

  • 36 social drinkers in 2 beverage conditions: Alcohol (0.075%) and No-alcohol

Paradigm

Measures

  • Startle response

  • Corrugator (frown) EMG

  • Autonomic measures (SC, HR)

  • Slide ratings (valence, arousal)

Stritzke, Patrick, & Lang, (1995). Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 104, 114-122.


Dionysus psych wisc

Valence Modulated Startle

Alcohol does not affect the “valence modulated” startle response. (i.e. sig. linear effect in both groups)


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Overall Startle Response

Alcohol produces a significant reduction in overall blink magnitude (and latency, not displayed).


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Skin Conductance Response

Alcohol does reduce arousal response, but to all emotional slides, regardless of slide valence.


Dionysus psych wisc

Diazepam and Startle

  • Patrick, Berthot, & Moore (1996)

  • Placebo or diazepam (Valium)

  • Negative and neutral slide viewing paradigm

  • Dose dependent effect of diazepam on fear potentiated startle to negative slides


Dionysus psych wisc

Attention Allocation Model

  • Alcohol intoxication reduces “attentional capacity” (Alcohol myopia)

  • Alcohol focuses attention on the most salient stimuli in the environment

  • If the most salient stimulus in the environment is pleasant, stress response will be reduced

  • Note: If most salient stimulus is stressor, stress response will be increased


Method1

Method

Participants

  • 48 social drinkers in 2 beverage conditions: Alcohol (0.075%) and No-alcohol

Measures

  • Startle response

  • Corrugator (frown) EMG

  • Autonomic measures (SC, HR)

Curtin, Lang, Patrick, & Stritzke, W. G. K. (1998). Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 107, 547-565.


Method2

Method

  • 8 blocks alternating between Shock threat and Safe

  • 6 positive slides in each block

  • 6 startle probes in each block

    - half during slide presentation (distraction)

    - half during inter-slide interval (no-distraction)

  • Fear poteniated startle (FPS) is the difference between startle response in Shock threat vs. Safe blocks

!

!

!

!

!

!

!

!

!

Key

!

- Slide

- Startle probe


Tonic levels of sc and corrugator

Tonic Levels of SC and Corrugator

  • Threat manipulation increased SCL and Corrugator level.

  • Beverage does not moderate this threat effect.


Phasic response to threat cue

Phasic Response to Threat Cue

  • Sig. threat effect in phasic response to block onset light cue

  • Beverage did not moderate this effect


Fear potentiated startle

Fear Potentiated Startle

Threshold for

significant FPS

  • In no-distraction condition, sig. FPS observed in both beverage groups.

  • In distraction condition, sig. FPS observed only in no-alcohol group.


Method3

Method

Participants

  • 48 social drinkers in 2 beverage conditions Alcohol (0.08%) and No-alcohol

Measures

  • Startle response

  • Event related potentials (focused on P3)

  • Task performance

Curtin et al., (2001). Psychological Science


Method4

Method

Block Structure

  • 24 blocks of trials (20 trials per block)

    • 8 Threat-focus blocks

    • 16 Divided attention blocks

Trial Structure

Startle

Shock

Button press

!

S2

^

S1

300ms

1400ms

300ms

200ms

300ms

S1

Threat-focus:Animal/Body-part

Divided attention:Animal/Body-partor

Animal/Body-part


Next block shock only

Next Block: SHOCK Only

Read each word as it is presented

Shocks to animal words


Dionysus psych wisc

HEAD


Dionysus psych wisc

NECK


Dionysus psych wisc

BEAR


Shock

!!!SHOCK!!!


Next block task shock

Next Block: TASK & SHOCK

Press button quickly to square after GREEN word

Do not press button after RED word

Shocks to ANIMAL words


Dionysus psych wisc

HAND


Mouth

MOUTH


Tiger

TIGER


Shock1

!!!SHOCK!!!


10 of 10 responses credited in this block

10 of 10 responses credited in this block


Fear potentiated startle1

Fear Potentiated Startle

  • In threat focus, no sig. difference in FPS between beverage groups

  • In divided attention, FPS sig. reduced


The next logical step

The Next Logical Step


Deliberate emotion regulation

Deliberate Emotion Regulation


Deliberate regulation when intoxicated

Deliberate Regulation when Intoxicated

Sober

Intoxicated (n=3)


Fear vs anxiety

Fear vs. Anxiety

Grillon, C., Davis, M., & Phillips, R. G. (1997). Fear-potentiated startle conditioning in humans: Explicit and contextual cue conditioning following paired versus unpaired training. Psychophysiology, 34, 451-458.

Conditioned fear in response to explicit and contextual cues was examined using the startle reflex in 3 groups of college students ( N = 58) over 2 sessions separated by 4-5 days. The CS was paired with an aversive unconditioned stimulus (UCS; shock) during conditioning in the paired but not in the unpaired group. In the reaction time (RT) group, the UCS was a nonaversive visual signal for an RT task. In the paired group, the CS potentiated startle in the postconditioning phase. This conditioned response was fully retained over the retention interval. There was no substantial change in baseline startle (startle delivered in the absence of CS). By contrast, startle was not potentiated by the CS in the unpaired group, but baseline startle was increased from Session 1 to Session 2. In the RT group, startle was not affected by the CS, and baseline startle was reduced from Session 1 to Session 2. These results suggest that paired presentations of a CS and an aversive UCS result in conditioned fear in response to the CS but little contextual fear, whereas unpaired presentations of a CS and UCS lead to poor explicit cue conditioning but substantial contextual fear.


Affective consequences of active coping

Affective Consequences of Active Coping

  • Miller, Curtin, & Patrick, 1999

  • Examined active vs. passive coping in a threat paradigm

  • 4 groups

    • Active tapping (contingent blasts)

    • Passive tapping (yoked/non-contingent)

    • Passive no-tapping (yoked)

    • Control tapping (no blasts)

  • Task included string of 30 asterisks during CS+ and CS- trials:

    • Tapping during CS+ for tapping groups

    • Blasts (.5s, 115dB) during CS+ for threat groups

  • Used airpuff as startle probe


Active avoidance and behavioral activation

Active Avoidance and Behavioral Activation


Active avoidance and behavioral activation1

Active Avoidance and Behavioral Activation


Emotion and psychopathy

Emotion and Psychopathy

  • Patrick, Bradley, & Lang (1993)

  • Groups did not differ in self-report of emotional response to the slides

  • Psychopaths did not display the typical potentiation of startle to the negatively valent slides


Measurement and processing issues

Measurement and Processing Issues

Data acquisition

  • Elicited with white noise probe (95 – 105 dB)

  • Sampled at 1000Hz

  • Broadband online filter (.015 - 500Hz)

  • Include habituation probes

    Data Processing

  • Epoch around triggers (-50 to 250ms window)

  • Bandpass filter (30 - 500Hz; van-Boxtel et al., 1998)

  • Rectify and lowpass filter (30 Hz)

  • Baseline correct

    Scoring Responses

  • Max response in 20 – 120 window

  • No response trials

  • Latency of response


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