Deficient attentional modulation of the startle response in patients with schizotypal personality disorder

Erin A. Hazlett, Jill Levine, Monte S. Buchsbaum, Jeremy M. Silverman, Antonia New, Elizabeth M. Sevin, Liza A. Maldari, Larry J. Siever

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Objective: Attentional deficits have been identified as an abnormality that individuals with schizotypal personality disorder share with schizophrenia patients. The purpose of this study was to examine automatic sensorimotor gating and controlled attentional modulation of the startle eye blink response in unmedicated subjects with schizotypal personality disorder. Method: Eighteen unmedicated patients with schizotypal personality disorder and 16 healthy individuals were assessed in an acoustic attention-to-prepulse paradigm. The participants performed a selective attention task involving the presentation of attended, ignored, and novel tones that served as prepulse tones. Acoustic startle probes were presented at short and long lead intervals after the onset of tones and occasionally during the intertone interval. Results: The comparison subjects showed greater prepulse inhibition and prepulse facilitation during the attended than the ignored prepulses, demonstrating early and later attentional modulation of startle eye blink response. In contrast, the subjects with schizotypal personality disorder failed to show this pattern. Conclusions: Subjects with schizotypal personality disorder have deficits in controlled attentional processing, as indexed by modification of the startle eye blink response, that are similar to those observed in patients with schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1621-1626
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2003


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