Emotional modulation by food rewards: blink and pinna-flexion reflex amplitude while anticipating and viewing images of food
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Understanding individual differences in approaching and avoiding food cues is necessary given the rise of disorders of eating (i.e. obesity, anorexia, and bulimia) in the United States. Approach and avoidance motivations are related to developing these disorders in two ways: learning about and experiencing reinforcing cues. The influential affective priming theory of Lang and colleagues suggests that emotional modulation of the acoustic startle reflex is a useful way of assessing motivational responses. To this end, this study examined emotional modulation of the blink and pinna-flexion component of startle during anticipation and viewing of food images (appetitive, neutral, and disgust). Sixty healthy young adults participated in a forced choice task and received reflexogenic bursts of white noise during anticipating and viewing of pictures indicative of accuracy outcomes. Consistent with prior research on emotional valence, potentiation of the postaricular (PA) muscle was found during viewing of delicious foods, while potentiation of the orbicularis oculi muscle was found during viewing of disgusting foods. Additionally, this study is the first to find that informational feedback (i.e. the relative correctness of a response regardless of hedonic category) also lead to potentiation of the pinna-flexion component of startle. These findings suggest that the PA reflex as a measure of task relevance and intrinsic positive valence may be uniquely situation to examine the individual differences in emotional responding that underlie disorders of eating.
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