Addressing variability in the acoustic startle reflex for accurate gap detection assessment

Hear Res. 2018 Jun:363:119-135. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2018.03.013. Epub 2018 Mar 13.


The acoustic startle reflex (ASR) is subject to substantial variability. This inherent variability consequently shapes the conclusions drawn from gap-induced prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle reflex (GPIAS) assessments. Recent studies have cast doubt as to the efficacy of this methodology as it pertains to tinnitus assessment, partially, due to variability in and between data sets. The goal of this study was to examine the variance associated with several common data collection variables and data analyses with the aim to improve GPIAS reliability. To study this the GPIAS tests were conducted in adult male and female CBA/CaJ mice. Factors such as inter-trial interval, circadian rhythm, sex differences, and sensory adaptation were each evaluated. We then examined various data analysis factors which influence GPIAS assessment. Gap-induced facilitation, data processing options, and assessments of tinnitus were studied. We found that the startle reflex is highly variable in CBA/CaJ mice, but this can be minimized by certain data collection factors. We also found that careful consideration of temporal fluctuations of the ASR and controlling for facilitation can lead to more accurate GPIAS results. This study provides a guide for reducing variance in the GPIAS methodology - thereby improving the diagnostic power of the test.

Keywords: Acoustic startle response magnitude; Circadian rhythm; Gap-induced prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle reflex; Prepulse facilitation; Tinnitus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / physiopathology*
  • Auditory Perception*
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Hearing Tests / methods*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prepulse Inhibition
  • Reflex, Startle*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sex Factors
  • Signal Detection, Psychological*
  • Tinnitus / diagnosis*
  • Tinnitus / physiopathology
  • Tinnitus / psychology