Suppressed acoustic startle response in traumatic brain injury masks post-traumatic stress disorder hyper-responsivity

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Abstract

An exaggerated acoustic startle reflex (ASR) is a clinical indicator of anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Given the prevalence of PTSD following traumatic brain injury (TBI), we studied the effects of TBI on ASR. Adult Sprague Dawley rats exposed to moderate controlled cortical impact injury model of TBI displayed suppression of ASR intensity and sensitivity. As patients with PTSD have been shown to display hyperactive startle responses, the present discrepant observation of TBI-induced suppression of ASR has clinical implications, in that the reduced, instead of elevated, startle response in patients with comorbid TBI/PTSD could be owing to a masking effect of TBI.

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