Human psychopharmacology

Effects of anxiolytic treatment on potentiated startle during aversive image anticipation.

PMID 22782542


Heightened anticipation of future events has been characterized as a feature of certain anxiety disorders. In functional magnetic resonance imaging studies, anticipation of fearful/threatening images has been shown to robustly activate the insular cortex and amygdala in healthy subjects, in subjects with high trait anxiety, and in some with anxiety disorders. Blood oxygenation level dependent activation in response to negative image anticipation is also sensitive to anxiolytic treatment, suggesting that image anticipation probes anxiety systems. It is not clear, however, if behavioral responses to image anticipation are also sensitive to anxiolytics. This study tested the hypothesis that anxiety behaviors during anticipation of negative images are sensitive to anxiolytic treatment. This study examined the effects of alprazolam and pregabalin treatment on potentiated startle during affective image anticipation. There was an effect of anticipation type (negative versus neutral versus positive) on startle reactivity and subjective ratings, suggesting that the task was effective in assaying negative anticipatory arousal. Both treatments significantly reduced overall startle magnitude. However, neither treatment specifically affected potentiated startle during aversive anticipation. These data suggest that potentiated startle in response to anticipation of aversive images is not sensitive to anxiolytic treatments in a healthy population, limiting its use as a predictive model of anxiolytic activity. This article is a US Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.