Relationships between the acoustic startle response and prepulse inhibition in C57BL/6J mice: A large-scale meta-analytic study

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Prepulse inhibition (PPI) is the suppression of a startle reflex response to a startle stimulus that occurs when a weak prepulse stimulus precedes the startle stimulus. PPI is measured to assess sensorimotor gating across species, including humans and rodents. Reduced PPI, which is thought to reflect dysfunction of sensorimotor gating, is reported in patients with psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and in animal models of these disorders. Individual differences in basal startle reactivity occur even in a genetically homogenous group of animals; however, there is limited information regarding whether basal levels of the startle response are associated with variations in PPI levels. Here, to explore the relationship between an acoustic startle response (ASR) and PPI, we performed a meta-analysis of data obtained from more than 1300 C57BL/6J male mice on the influence of an ASR to 110- and 120-dB startle stimuli on the PPI levels of the ASR at 74- and 78-dB prepulse intensities. Examination of scatter plots of the ASR amplitudes and PPI levels followed by correlation analyses indicated that there is no simple linear relationship between the two measures; when mice were divided into three groups on the basis of their startle amplitudes, there were positive correlations between the amplitude of the ASR to the 110-dB stimulus and PPI levels in a group of mice that showed lower ASR amplitudes among the genetically homogenous group, whereas no significant correlations were identified in groups of mice that showed intermediate and higher ASR amplitudes. As indicated by the correlation analysis, the lowest responders to the 110-dB stimulus exhibited lower levels of PPI than the intermediate or higher responders. In contrast, for the 120-dB stimulus, a negative correlation was identified between the amplitude of the ASR to the 120-dB stimulus and the PPI levels in the groups of mice that showed intermediate or higher ASR amplitudes. Lower and intermediate responders showed higher levels of PPI than higher responders to the 120-dB stimulus. These findings suggest that basal startle reactivity may affect PPI levels in male C57BL/6J mice, thus representing one potential confounding factor that may confuse the interpretation of PPI results. These findings emphasize the importance of careful examination of startle reactivity to ensure a reliable assessment of PPI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number42
JournalMolecular brain
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13-07-2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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