Behaviorally inhibited children face increased risk for anxiety disorders, although factors that predict which children develop a disorder remain poorly specified. The current study examines whether the startle reflex response may be used to differentiate between behaviorally inhibited adolescents with and without a history of anxiety.Method:
Participants were assessed for behavioral inhibition during toddlerhood and early childhood. They returned to the laboratory as adolescents and completed a fear-potentiated startle paradigm and a clinical diagnostic interview (Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children-Present and Lifetime Version). Magnitude of the startle reflex was examined at baseline and during cues associated with safety and threat.Results:
Only adolescents who showed high levels of behavioral inhibition and had a lifetime occurrence of anxiety disorders showed increased startle reactivity in the presence of safety cues. Neither behavioral inhibition nor diagnosis was related to startle reactivity during threat cues.Conclusions:
These results suggest that neurobiological measures, such as the startle reflex, may be a potential risk marker for the development of anxiety disorders among behaviorally inhibited adolescents. These methods may enhance our ability to identify vulnerable individuals before the development of anxious psychopathology.