Prepulse inhibition of the startle reflex (PPI) is an operational measure of sensorimotor gating, which is demonstrated to be impaired in patients with schizophrenia. In addition, a disruption of the circadian rhythm together with blunted melatonin secretion is regularly found in patients with schizophrenia and it is theorized that these may contribute to their attentional deficits. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of acute melatonin on healthy human sensorimotor gating. Twenty-one healthy male volunteers were administered melatonin or placebo after which their levels of PPI were assessed. Melatonin significantly reduced startle magnitude and ratings of alertness, but did not influence PPI, nor sensitization and habituation. However, when taking baseline scores in consideration, melatonin significantly increased PPI in low scoring individuals while significantly decreasing it in high scoring individuals in low intensity prepulse trialtypes only. In addition, subjective ratings of alertness correlated with PPI. The results suggest that melatonin has only minor influences on sensorimotor gating, habituation and sensitization of the startle reflex of healthy males. The data do indicate a relationship between alertness and PPI. Further research examining the effects of melatonin on these processes in patients with schizophrenia is warranted.
Psychiatry Research, 2014, Vol 216, Issue 3, p. 418-423