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Startle as an Interrupter: The Relationship Between the Startle Response and Working Memory

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abstract
The startle response is a universal reflex to a sudden stimulus that has been researched mainly as a defensive mechanism. However, there is little research that explores the interrupting effect of the startle response on ongoing processes. The current study investigates the Protection of Preattentive Processing Theory, examining the interrupting effects of the startle response on an ongoing cognitive task as well as the protection of these interrupting effects with the addition of prepulse inhibition. Participants were presented with a visual n-back task consisting of upper and lowercase letters. Some trials of this task were presented concurrently with a startle stimulus alone or a startle stimulus with a prepulse. We predicted that the interrupting effect of the startle response would be observed by decreased working memory performance as measured by the n-back task. Additionally, we predicted that the addition of a prepulse would cause prepulse inhibition, protecting against interruption and weakening the startle response so that performance was better than on trials with a startle stimulus alone, but not as good as trials without a startle condition. Ultimately, we did not find statistically significant effects supporting these hypotheses, in part due to the limitations placed on our experiment by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, these findings, within consideration of the limitations of the present work, make a case for the need of further investigation of the interrupting effects of the startle response on ongoing cognitive processes.
subject
contributor
Espenan, Molly (author)
Blumenthal, Terry (committee chair)
Pratt, Wayne (committee member)
Lack, Anna (committee member)
date
2020-05-29T08:36:13Z (accessioned)
2020-05-29T08:36:13Z (available)
2020 (issued)
degree
Psychology (discipline)
identifier
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/96861 (uri)
language
en (iso)
publisher
Wake Forest University
title
Startle as an Interrupter: The Relationship Between the Startle Response and Working Memory
type
Thesis

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