Emotion Effects on the N170: A Question of Reference?

Department of Psychology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Rudower Chaussee 18, 12489, Berlin, Germany, .
Brain Topography (Impact Factor: 3.47). 10/2012; 26(1). DOI: 10.1007/s10548-012-0261-y
Source: PubMed


We investigated whether face-specific processes as indicated by the N170 in event-related brain potentials (ERPs) are modulated by emotional significance in facial expressions. Results yielded that emotional modulations over temporo-occipital electrodes typically used to measure the N170 were less pronounced when ERPs were referred to mastoids than when average reference was applied. This offers a potential explanation as to why the literature has so far yielded conflicting evidence regarding effects of emotional facial expressions on the N170. However, spatial distributions of the N170 and emotion effects across the scalp were distinguishable for the same time point, suggesting different neural sources for the N170 and emotion processing. We conclude that the N170 component itself is unaffected by emotional facial expressions, with overlapping activity from the emotion-sensitive early posterior negativity accounting for amplitude modulations over typical N170 electrodes. Our findings are consistent with traditional models of face processing assuming face and emotion encoding to be parallel and independent processes.

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Available from: Annekathrin Schacht, Feb 08, 2014
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    • "However, in another recent study, investigating the N170 and EPN responses to arousing and non-arousing body parts, i.e., insulting versus pointing hand gestures, only EPN but not the N170 response was modulated by the affective arousal of the hand gestures (Flaisch & Schupp, 2013). Thus, previous research using other types of stimuli have provided evidence that the arousal-related EPN activity can overlap with the N170 component (Rellecke et al., 2013), but this is not always the case (Flaisch & Schupp, 2013). Regarding the effects of arousal on body processing, the present data do not allow resolving this issue. "
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    ABSTRACT: The early visual event-related 'N170 response' is sensitive to human body configuration and it is enhanced to nude versus clothed bodies. We tested whether the N170 response as well as later EPN and P3/LPP responses to nude bodies reflect the effect of increased arousal elicited by these stimuli, or top-down allocation of object-based attention to the nude bodies. Participants saw pictures of clothed and nude bodies and faces. In each block, participants were asked to direct their attention towards stimuli from a specified target category while ignoring others. Object-based attention did not modulate the N170 amplitudes towards attended stimuli; instead N170 response was larger to nude bodies compared to stimuli from other categories. Top-down attention and affective arousal had additive effects on the EPN and P3/LPP responses reflecting later processing stages. We conclude that nude human bodies have a privileged status in the visual processing system due to the affective arousal they trigger.
    Biological Psychology 09/2014; 103. DOI:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2014.09.003 · 3.40 Impact Factor
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    • "They suggest that the scalp distribution related to the EPN is sensitive to emotional facial expressions while the parallel distribution associated with the N170 is only sensitive to the structural processing of facial stimuli, and that topographies are largely affected by choice of reference. The EPN is more negative in response to emotional compared to neutral facial expressions and is characterized by a more posterior spatial distribution compared to the N170 ERP (Rellecke et al., 2013). Since studies that measured the N170 used different paradigms and different references, a summary of emotion modulation of the N170 ERP must be tentative. "
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    ABSTRACT: Facial expressions are encoded via sensory mechanisms, but meaning extraction and salience of these expressions involves cognitive functions. We investigated the time course of sensory encoding and subsequent maintenance in memory via EEG. Twenty-nine healthy participants completed a facial emotion delayed match-to-sample task. P100, N170 and N250 ERPs were measured in response to the first stimulus, and evoked theta power (4-7Hz) was measured during the delay interval. Negative facial expressions produced larger N170 amplitudes and greater theta power early in the delay. N170 amplitude correlated with theta power, however larger N170 amplitude coupled with greater theta power only predicted behavioural performance for one emotion condition (Very Happy) out of six tested (see Supplemental Data). These findings indicate that the N170 ERP may be sensitive to emotional facial expressions when task demands require encoding and retention of this information. Furthermore, sustained theta activity may represent continued attentional processing that supports short-term memory, especially of negative facial stimuli. Further study is needed to investigate the potential influence of these measures, and their interaction, on behavioural performance.
    International journal of psychophysiology: official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology 06/2014; 93(3). DOI:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2014.06.006 · 2.88 Impact Factor
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    • "The N170 is well known for its face-sensitivity; N170 amplitudes elicited at occipitotemporal electrodes between 140 and 200 ms after stimulus onset are almost always larger in response to faces than in response to nonface objects (Eimer, 2011). However, the N170 is also generated in response to other objects, such as words (Gao et al., 2011; Mercure et al., 2011), and is sensitive to emotional facial expressions (Batty and Taylor, 2003; Blau et al., 2007; Babiloni et al., 2010; Rellecke et al., 2013). Thus, both non-emotional and emotional learning modulate this component, as seen in learning-dependent changes in N170 amplitude to previously novels objects (Gauthier et al., 1999; Rossion et al., 2002), and during aversive Pavlovian conditioning (Pizzagalli et al., 2003; Dolan et al., 2006). "
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    ABSTRACT: The reinforcing effects of aversive outcomes on avoidance behaviour are well established. However, their influence on perceptual processes are less well explored, especially during the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Using EEG, we examined whether learning to actively or passively avoid harm can modulate early visual responses in adolescents and adults. The task included two avoidance conditions, active and passive, where two different warning stimuli predicted the imminent, but avoidable, presentation of an aversive tone. To avoid the aversive outcome, participants had to learn to emit an action (active avoidance) for one of the warning stimuli, and omit an action for the other (passive avoidance). Both adults and adolescents performed the task with a high degree of accuracy. For both adolescents and adults, increased N170 ERP amplitudes were found for both the active and passive warning stimuli compared to control conditions. Moreover, the potentiation of the N170 to the warning stimuli was stable and long lasting. Developmental differences were also observed; adolescents showed greater potentiation of the N170 component to danger signals. These findings demonstrate, for the first time, that learned danger signals in an instrumental avoidance task can influence early visual sensory processes in both adults and adolescents.
    Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 03/2014; 10(2). DOI:10.1093/scan/nsu048 · 7.37 Impact Factor
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