Affective Modulation of the Startle Reflex Is an Ineffective Methodology to Examine Depression-Linked Interpretative Biases

Leigh S. Goggin, Mathew T. Martin-Iverson, Paula R. Nathan
2011 Psychology  
Cognitive theory predicts that depression is associated with a bias to interpret ambiguous information in a mood-congruent fashion. This negative interpretative bias may serve as a maintenance factor for the continuation of a depressed mood state. The majority of studies investigating such interpretative biases suffer from a variety of methodological problems. This research has utilized an objective physiological measure involving the affective modulation of the human eye blink reflex in 25
more » ... essed and 25 control subjects by depressive, depressive-ambiguous, and distorted stimuli. Almost half of the depressed subjects suffered from a comorbid anxiety disorder. In contrast to previous research utilizing the same methodology, depressed participants did not react differently to non-depressed participants in terms of their blink reflex response to the various stimuli types. This outcome is ascribed to the exclusion of anxiety-related stimuli in the current study. Depression-related stimuli failed to augment blink amplitudes in both subject groups. Therefore, affective modulation of the startle reflex is an ineffective methodology for the detection of depression-linked interpretative biases, as there is no difference to how individuals react to depressive and neutral stimuli. In this study, patients diagnosed with social anxiety disorder reacted to difficult-to-identify stimuli with augmented blink amplitudes, interpreted as an anxiety response.
doi:10.4236/psych.2011.25075 fatcat:bphtzz7ulvbgxovpee7ryiow2e