Affective Modulation of the Startle Eyeblink and Postauricular Reflexes in Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Gabriel S. Dichter
  • Stephen D. Benning
  • Tia N. Holtzclaw
  • James W. Bodfish
Original Paper


Eyeblink and postauricular reflexes to standardized affective images were examined in individuals without (n = 37) and with (n = 20) autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Affective reflex modulation in control participants replicated previous findings. The ASD group, however, showed anomalous reflex modulation patterns, despite similar self-report ratings of pictures. Specifically, the ASD group demonstrated exaggerated eyeblink responses to pleasant images and exaggerated postauricular responses to unpleasant images. Although ASD is often conceptualized in terms of specific deficits in affective responding in the social domain, the present results suggest a domain-general pattern of deficits in affective processing and that such deficits may arise at an early phase in the stream of information processing.


Autism spectrum disorder Affective startle modulation Eyeblink Postauricular 



This research was supported by R01 MH073402 (Bodfish) and R21 MH085254 (Dichter & Benning). G. Dichter was supported by NIH/NCRR K12 RR023248 and NIMH K23 MH081285. Assistance for this study was provided by the Subject Registry and Biostatistics Cores of the UNC Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Center (P30 HD03110). We thank Jeffrey Sibrack for assistance with programming and data collection and Michele Poe, PhD for assistance with various aspects of this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabriel S. Dichter
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Stephen D. Benning
    • 2
  • Tia N. Holtzclaw
    • 1
    • 7
  • James W. Bodfish
    • 1
    • 3
    • 6
  1. 1.Carolina Institute for Developmental DisabilitiesUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of MedicineChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, College of Arts & SciencesVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of MedicineChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis CenterDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  5. 5.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  6. 6.Center for Development and LearningUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  7. 7.Department of PsychologyThe University of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA

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