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Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 152, Issue 4, pp 510–518 | Cite as

Startle response is dishabituated during a reaction time task

  • Anthony N. Carlsen
  • Romeo Chua
  • J. Timothy Inglis
  • David J. Sanderson
  • Ian M. Franks
Research Article

Abstract

Recent experiments pairing a startling stimulus with a simple reaction time (RT) task have shown that when participants are startled, a prepared movement may be triggered earlier in comparison to voluntary initiation (Carlsen et al. 2003, in press; Siegmund et al. 2001; Valls-Solé et al. 1999). The use of this paradigm in experiments may provide new insights into processes that control rapid voluntary actions. However, because the startle response habituates with repeated exposure to the startling stimulus, its use in experiments may be limited. Previously Brown et al. (1991) and later Siegmund et al. (2001) noted that individuals habituate to a startling stimulus at different rates depending on the required activity level of the participant in the task. The present experiment was designed to determine the rate at which participants habituate to a startle during the completion of a RT task. Participants completed 100 trials in which an active wrist extension to a target was performed as fast as possible following an auditory tone. An unexpected 124 dB auditory startle stimulus accompanied the imperative stimulus in 20 of these trials. For the duration of the experiment, startle response electromyographic (EMG) activity continued to be produced in the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM) indicating that habituation was not complete after 20 startle trials. Furthermore RT in the startle condition was significantly shorter than control RT. However, findings indicate that when a measurable EMG burst in the SCM was present, RT was significantly shorter than when no SCM burst was present.

Keywords

Startle Electromyography Programming Habituation 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony N. Carlsen
    • 1
  • Romeo Chua
    • 1
  • J. Timothy Inglis
    • 1
  • David J. Sanderson
    • 1
  • Ian M. Franks
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Human KineticsUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.School of Human KineticsUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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