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Lily Riggs, Takako Fujioka, Jessica Chan, Douglas A McQuiggan, Adam K Anderson, and Jennifer D Ryan (2014)

Association with emotional information alters subsequent processing of neutral faces

Frontiers of Neuroscience, 8:1001.

The processing of emotional as compared to neutral information is associated with different patterns in eye movement and neural activity. However, the ‘emotionality’ of a stimulus can be conveyed not only by its physical properties, but also by the information that is presented with it. There is very limited work examining the how emotional information may influence the immediate perceptual processing of otherwise neutral information. We examined how presenting an emotion label for a neutral face may influence subsequent processing by using eye movement monitoring (EMM) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) simultaneously. Participants viewed a series of faces with neutral expressions. Each face was followed by a unique negative or neutral sentence to describe that person, and then the same face was presented in isolation again. Viewing of faces paired with a negative sentence was associated with increased early viewing of the eye region and increased neural activity between 600 and 1200 ms in emotion processing regions such as the cingulate, medial prefrontal cortex, and amygdala, as well as posterior regions such as the precuneus and occipital cortex. Viewing of faces paired with a neutral sentence was associated with increased activity in the parahippocampal gyrus during the same time window. By monitoring behavior and neural activity within the same paradigm, these findings demonstrate that emotional information alters subsequent visual scanning and the neural systems that are presumably invoked to maintain a representation of the neutral information along with its emotional details.

emotion, MEG, eye movement, faces