Emotional modulation of the post-auricular reflex

Psychophysiology. 2004 May;41(3):426-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.00160.x.


A large literature now exists on emotional modulation of the startle blink reflex. The current study examined affective modulation of the post-auricular reflex, which can be measured in relation to the same noise probe used to evoke the startle reflex. We recorded the post-auricular reflex during viewing of pictures that varied systematically in emotional valence, content, and intensity. A significant linear valence modulation effect was found, with pleasant pictures potentiating and aversive pictures inhibiting the post-auricular reflex in comparison with neutral pictures. This modulatory effect did not vary as a function of picture content, but it was most robust for highly intense emotional pictures. Implications for the assessment of basic emotional action tendencies are discussed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ear, External / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology*