The aim of the proposed research is to explore the startle probe as a procedure for investigating emotional experience. Affect- related modulation of the startle response is conceptualized in terms of an efferent-oriented information processing model, in which the response dispositions activated during an emotional experience are seen as priming the reaction (here, the amplitude and latency of the eyeblink) to a startle stimulus. In this view, supported by preliminary data, similar startle effects will occur whether a foreground affective state is induced by external stimuli (e.g., slides) or by internal processing of affective memories (e.g., imagery). Accordingly, two parallel experimental series, one employing slides and the other imagery, are planned to provide converging evidence regarding this affective priming hypothesis, as contrasted to an alternate interpretation based on attentional factors: Specifically, the research will explore changes in startle response due to the affective nature of the foreground stimulus and the match/mismatch of the foreground stimulus and startle probe modalities. The significance of this research lies in the potential of the startle probe as a tool to investigate such issues in emotion research as dimensional vs. state-specific viewpoints, the function of arousal, and the relationship of physiological response to cognitive and affective processes.

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National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
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Cognition, Emotion, and Personality Research Review Committee (CEP)
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University of Florida
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Lang, Peter J; Davis, Michael (2006) Emotion, motivation, and the brain: reflex foundations in animal and human research. Prog Brain Res 156:3-29
Cuthbert, Bruce N; Lang, Peter J; Strauss, Cyd et al. (2003) The psychophysiology of anxiety disorder: fear memory imagery. Psychophysiology 40:407-22
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Bradley, M M; Codispoti, M; Cuthbert, B N et al. (2001) Emotion and motivation I: defensive and appetitive reactions in picture processing. Emotion 1:276-98
McManis, M H; Bradley, M M; Berg, W K et al. (2001) Emotional reactions in children: verbal, physiological, and behavioral responses to affective pictures. Psychophysiology 38:222-31
Sabatinelli, D; Bradley, M M; Lang, P J (2001) Affective startle modulation in anticipation and perception. Psychophysiology 38:719-22

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