As an alternative to interoceptive paradigms that depend on the participants' active cooperation, two studies are presented to show that startle methodology may be employed to study visceral afferent processing. The first study of 38 volunteers showed that startle responses were smaller when elicited during cardiac systole as compared to diastole. In the second study, 31 diabetic patients were divided into two groups, having normal or diminished (<6 ms/mmHg) baroreflex sensitivity (BRS). Patients with normal BRS showed the same results found in healthy volunteers. Diabetic patients with diminished BRS did not show this pattern. Because diminished BRS is an indicator of impaired baro-afferent signal transmission, it is concluded that cardiac modulation of startle is associated with intact baro-afferent feedback. Thus, pre-attentive startle methodology is feasible to study visceral afferent processing originating from the cardiovascular system.