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Prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the startle response to a sudden noise is the reduction in startle observed when the noise is preceded shortly by a mild sensory event, which is often a tone. A part of the literature is based on the assumption that PPI is independent of the baseline startle. A simple model is presented and experimental validation provided. The model is based on the commonly accepted observation that the neuronal circuit of PPI differs from that of startle. But, by using a common output, the measures of both phenomena become linked to each other. But, how can we interpret the numerous experimental data showing PPI to be independent of the startle level? It is suggested that in a number of such cases the baseline startle would have been stabilized by a ceiling effect in the startle/PPI neuronal networks. Reducing the startle level, for example in a PPI evaluation procedure, may disclose properties of startle masked by this ceiling effect. Disclosure of habituation to the startle eliciting noise produced an increase of PPI along its initial measurements. Taken together, even if the neuronal process that sustains startle and PPI are distinct, separating them experimentally requires careful parametric methods and caution in the interpretation of the corresponding observations.
Mrs. Nathalie Monique Canal was granted by the French Ministry of Education. We thank Pr. Terence O’Brien for his suggestions concerning the last version of the manuscript, especially for ameliorating its English version. The stylistic aspect of its initial versions had been verified by Mr. Andrew Wright, translator of the European Parliament.