Enhanced startle reactivity during exposure to unpleasant cues (aversive startle potentiation; ASP) appears in the RDoC matrix as a physiological index of acute threat response. Increased ASP has been linked to focal fear disorders and to scale measures of dispositional fearfulness (i.e., threat sensitivity; THT+). However, some studies have reported reduced ASP for fear pathology accompanied by major depressive disorder (MDD) or pervasive distress. The current study evaluated whether (a) THT+ as indexed by reported dispositional fearfulness mediates the relationship between fear disorders (when unaccompanied by depression) and ASP, and (b) depression moderates relations of THT+ and fear disorders with ASP. Fear disorder participants without MDD showed enhanced ASP whereas those with MDD (or other distress conditions) showed evidence of reduced ASP. Continuous THT+ scores also predicted ASP, and this association: (a) was likewise moderated by depression/distress, and (b) accounted for the relationship between ASP and fear pathology without MDD. These findings point to a role for the RDoC construct of acute threat, operationalized dispositionally, in enhanced ASP shown by individuals with fear pathology unaccompanied by distress pathology.
- Anxiety disorders
- Threat sensitivity
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article
- Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
- Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.