The startle response: Developmental effects and a paradigm for children and adults

Karina Quevedo, Tiffany Smith, Bonny Donzella, Emily Schunk, Megan Gunnar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


A film paradigm was developed to examine baseline and emotion modulated startle across a broad age range from preschool to adulthood. The paradigm was tested in children (3-, 5-, 7-, and 9-year-olds) and adults (total N=122). The paradigm elicited a similar startle potentiation pattern across age groups; however, baseline startle changed with age: 3- and 5-year-olds showed lower response probability and magnitude of baseline startle than adults. Females exhibited larger baseline startle response probability and overall magnitude than did males; however, no sex by emotion modulated startle interaction was noted. Anxiety measures were obtained for all children. Individual differences in anxiety were associated with baseline startle magnitude among older but not younger children. No association of anxiety with startle potentiation was noted. Overall the film paradigm was applicable across a wide developmental span, revealing potential developmental and gender differences in baseline startle magnitude and response probability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-89
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Anxiety
  • Emotion modulated and baseline startle
  • Gender differences
  • New experimental paradigm
  • Typically developing children


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