Aversive startle potentiation and fear pathology: Mediating role of threat sensitivity and moderating impact of depression

James R. Yancey, Uma Vaidyanathan, Christopher J. Patrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - May 20 2014

Keywords

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Fear
  • Startle
  • Threat sensitivity

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

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