Increased prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle response is associated with better strategy formation and execution times in healthy males

Neuropsychologia. 2006;44(12):2494-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.04.001. Epub 2006 May 15.


Prepulse inhibition (PPI) refers to the attenuation of the amplitude of the startle reflex in response to sudden intense stimuli (pulse) if preceded by a weaker sensory stimulus (prepulse). PPI reflects the ability to filter out irrelevant information in the early stages of processing so that attention can be directed to more salient environmental features. Inhibition at this early stage of information processing appears modulated by the prefrontal cortex in a "top-down" fashion and this may account for the normal inter-individual variability in PPI and in cognitive performance. PPI data were calculated from 82 healthy male subjects who were also tested in problem solving (Stockings of Cambridge; SoC), spatial working memory (SWM) and 5-choice reaction time (RT) tests from the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery. Correlations between PPI scores and cognitive test variables were examined. In addition PPI scores were divided in quartiles which were used as grouping factors in examining cognitive test performance. Compared to individuals in the lowest quartile those in the highest had (a) shorter execution but not reaction times on the 5-choice RT, (b) shorter subsequent but not initial thinking times in the SoC where they also solved more problems correctly with the minimum number of moves, and (c) better strategy but not errors scores in the SWM. Our findings suggest that greater PPI is associated with superior abilities in strategy formation and execution times. We suggest that this is due to more efficient early information processing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Problem Solving / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reflex, Acoustic / physiology*
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology*
  • Thinking / physiology*