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The human startle reflex and pons activation: a regional cerebral blood flow study
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Chemistry, Department of Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry.
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2002 (English)In: European Journal of Neuroscience, ISSN 0953-816X, E-ISSN 1460-9568, Vol. 15, no 2, 395-398 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Using positron emission tomographic measurements of regional cerebral blood flow, we report activation of a medial pons area in humans during acoustic startle stimulation. Eight healthy volunteers were scanned during rest and when presented startle-eliciting stimuli. We performed a theory-driven directed search for activity in the nucleus reticularis pontis caudalis, situated in the pons. Because habituation of cerebellar activity during acoustic startle repetition has been reported [Timmann, D., Musso, C., Kolb, F.P., Rijntjes, M., Juptner, M., Muller, S.P., Diener, H.C. & Weiller, C. (1998) J. Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiatry 65, 771-773], we also predicted habituation in the cerebellum and in the pons as a function of startle repetition. Measurements of eye electromyography validated the presence of a startle response and its habituation. Analysis of regional cerebral blood flow revealed higher neural activity during startle stimulation than at rest in a medial pons area consistent with the location of the pontine reticular nucleus. As a consequence of startle repetition, regional cerebral blood flow increased in the medial cerebellum, and habituated in the ventral cerebellum and in a ventral pons area separate from the pontine reticular nucleus. In the ventral pons, but not in the pontine reticular nucleus, regional cerebral blood flow and the startle reflex were positively correlated. In the cerebellum both positive and negative correlations with the startle reflex were observed. Thus we conclude that the neurofunctional correlates of the startle circuit and its habituation in humans are similar to that previously described in animals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2002. Vol. 15, no 2, 395-398 p.
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-90586DOI: 10.1046/j.0953-816x.2001.01870.xOAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-90586DiVA: diva2:162988
Available from: 2003-05-22 Created: 2003-05-22 Last updated: 2013-05-21Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Fear, Startle, and Fear-Potentiated Startle: Probing Emotion in the Human Brain
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Fear, Startle, and Fear-Potentiated Startle: Probing Emotion in the Human Brain
2003 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The present thesis explored the neurobiological basis of three aspects of defense behaviors in humans. Positron emission tomography methodology was used, and changes in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) were measured as an index of neural activity. Firstly, brain function was studied in a group of patients suffering from combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder, using a symptom provocation paradigm with combat sounds in order to elicit fear. Exposure to auditory trauma reminders relative to neutral sounds was associated with increased rCBF in sensorimotor areas, the cerebellar vermis, the periaqueductal gray matter, and the right amygdala, whereas decreased activity was observed in the retrosplenial area of the posterior cingulate cortex. Secondly, the neural circuitry mediating the acoustic startle response and its habituation was studied in a group of healthy subjects. During acoustic startle stimulation as compared to a resting condition, increased rCBF was found in a medial posterior area of the pons corresponding to the nucleus reticularis pontis caudalis. As a result of startle repetition, altered activity was found in the cerebellum, pointing to its involvement in startle habituation. Thirdly, neural activity associated with startle modulation by phobic fear was studied in a group of subjects with specific animal phobias during exposure to pictures of their feared and non-feared objects, paired and unpaired with acoustic startle stimuli. As a result of startle potentiation, increased rCBF was found in the left amygdaloid-hippocampal region, and medially in the affective division of the anterior cingulate cortex. In conclusion, these results provide evidence for the involvement of limbic and paralimbic brain areas during fear provocation and fear-potentiated startle and for a similar neurocircuitry underlying startle in humans and animals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2003. 65 p.
Series
Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 0282-7492 ; 127
Keyword
Psychology, anxiety, attention, brain, fear, fear-potentiated startle, human, neuroimaging, positron emission tomography, posttraumatic stress disorder, regional cerebral blood flow, startle, startle habituation, symptom provocation, Psykologi
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-3479 (URN)91-554-5674-X (ISBN)
Public defence
2003-09-12, Jacobsson Widdingsalen (Room 1022), Trädgårdsgatan 18, Uppsala, 13:15
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2003-05-22 Created: 2003-05-22Bibliographically approved

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Pissiota, AnnaFrans, ÖrjanFredrikson, MatsLångström, Bengt

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