Normalization of the auditory startle reflex after symptom reduction in children with anxiety disorders

M. J. Bakker, M. A. J. Tijssen, J. H. T. M. Koelman, F. Boer

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In an earlier study the Auditory Startle Response (ASR) of anxiety disordered (AD) children proved to be enlarged. This study examines in a controlled design to what extent this increase is responsive to symptom reduction during Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) METHODS: The activity of 6 muscles following 104 dB tones in 20 patients (M = 12,7 years; SD = 2.5) and 25 matched controls was measured with an electromyogram (EMG). In addition, the sympathetic skin response was investigated. Response to treatment was investigated with the Anxiety Disorder Interview Schedule for Children (ADIS-C) and the Spence Children's Anxiety Scale (SCAS). Treatment responders (n = 12) showed a significant ASR decrease over time, whereas non-responders (n = 8) showed a significant ASR increase or no significant ASR difference. In controls, the ASR was not significantly different at follow up compared to baseline. The sympathetic skin response was stable in controls and treatment responders but significantly increased over time in treatment non-responders. Linear regression suggested that one of the ASR pre-treatment parameters (multiple muscle EMG magnitude) predicts treatment response. The ASR decreases in AD children when anxiety symptoms diminish. In addition, the ASR may be useful in predicting response to CBT in AD children
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)796-802
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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