Atypical modulation of startle in women in face of aversive bodily sensations

Erik Ceunen, Johan W. S. Vlaeyen, Ilse Van Diest*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Eye blink startle magnitude is assumed to be higher in threatening contexts. A scarce amount of studies suggest that this does not hold true when startle is measured during perceived threats to homeostatic integrity. The present study was set up to describe the startle response pattern to a selection of interoceptive stimuli. Female subjects (N=36) were exposed once to 90 s of continued (1) cold pain, (2) inhalation of a gas mixture of 7.5% CO2, and (3) breathing against an inspiratory and expiratory resistive load. Each stimulus was preceded and followed by a 90 second period of rest, respectively labeled baseline and recovery. Even after correcting eye blink startle responses for habituation, a decreased startle amplitude was evident during these stimuli. Results suggest that startle amplitude during aversive stimulation is inversely correlated with perceived fearfulness for women, although further studies are necessary to corroborate this interpretation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-163
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


  • Startle
  • Fear
  • Interoception
  • Homeostasis
  • Dyspnea
  • Hypothermia


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