Acoustic startle reflex in schizophrenia patients and their first- degree relatives: Evidence of normal emotional modulation

Clayton E. Curtis, Boyd Lebow, David S. Lake, Joanna Katsanis, William G. Iacono

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We investigated emotional disturbances in 36 schizophrenia patients, 48 of their first-degree relatives, and 56 controls to determine if abnormal affective startle modulation could be associated with genetic risk for schizophrenia. Both patients and relatives had a pattern of startle modulation indistinguishable from controls, with potentiated startle amplitude while viewing negative valence slides and attenuation while viewing positive slides. Patients with flat affect did not differ from those without in startle modulation or slide ratings. The patients and their relatives had lower pleasantness ratings of positive slides and the patients had higher pleasantness ratings of the negative slides than controls. The startle paradigm may not be useful for identifying individuals with a genetic liability for schizophrenia. The results suggest that low-level defensive and appetitive behaviors are unaffected in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-475
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 1999



  • Emotion
  • Flat affect
  • Genetic vulnerability
  • Negative symptoms
  • Schizophrenia
  • Startle reflex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

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