Startle modulation by affective faces

Andrey P. Anokhin, Simon Golosheykin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Startle reflex modulation by affective pictures is a well-established effect in human emotion research. However, much less is known about startle modulation by affective faces, despite the growing evidence that facial expressions robustly activate emotion-related brain circuits. In this study, acoustic startle probes were administered to 37 young adult participants (20 women) during the viewing of slides from the Pictures of Facial Affect set including neutral, happy, angry, and fearful faces. The effect of expression valence (happy, neutral, and negative) on startle magnitude was highly significant (p < .001). Startle reflex was strongly potentiated by negative expressions (fearful and angry), however, no attenuation by happy faces was observed. A significant valence by gender interaction suggests stronger startle potentiation effects in females. These results demonstrate that affective facial expressions can produce significant modulation of the startle reflex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-40
Number of pages4
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Emotion
  • Facial expression
  • Startle reflex


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