Prepulse inhibition and facilitation of the postauricular reflex, a vestigial remnant of pinna startle.Psychophysiology. 2017 04; 54(4):566-577.P
If the postauricular reflex (PAR) is to be used effectively in studies of emotion and attention, its sensitivity to basic modulatory effects such as prepulse inhibition and facilitation must be determined. Two experiments were carried out with healthy young adults to assess the effects of transient and sustained visual prestimuli on the pinna-flexion response to trains of startle probes. In the first experiment, participants passively viewed a small white square. It was displayed from 1,000 ms prior to onset of a train of noise bursts until the end of that train. Relative to no-prepulse control trials, PAR amplitude was inhibited, possibly due to the withdrawal of attentional resources from the auditory modality. In the second experiment, participants performed a visual oddball task in which irrelevant trains of startle probes followed most briefly displayed task stimuli (checkerboards). Prepulse inhibition was observed when a transient stimulus preceded the first probe at a lead time of 100 ms. Amplitude facilitation was observed at longer lead times. In addition to documenting the existence of prepulse inhibition and facilitation, the data suggest that the PAR is not elicited by visual stimuli, that temporal expectancy does not influence its amplitude or latency, and that this vestigial microreflex is resistant to habituation. Results are interpreted in light of a recent theory that the human PAR is a highly degraded pinna startle, in which the reflex arc no longer includes the startle center (nucleus reticularis pontis caudalis).