Emotional priming effects during Stroop task performance.

UNC Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.13). 10/2009; 49(3):2662-70. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.10.076
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The ability to make decisions within an emotional context requires a balance between two functionally integrated neural systems that primarily support executive control and affective processing. Several studies have demonstrated effects of emotional interference presented during an ongoing cognitive task, but it is unclear how activating the emotional circuitry prior to a cognitive task may enhance or disrupt the executive system. In this study we used fMRI to examine the effects of emotional priming on executive processing during a number Stroop task. Our results indicated that during trials with less executive requirements, there was a greater aversive emotional attenuation effect in a network of regions including the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC), insula and cingulate gyrus. This attenuation effect was counteracted during trials with increased executive demand, suggesting that while pre-activation of the emotional system may lead to an automatic attenuation of activity in multiple regions, requirements for executive function may override the aversive emotional attenuation effect. Furthermore, this override effect was found to be associated with faster reaction times during executive processing. These findings demonstrate that activity in the vlPFC, cingulate and insula is dynamically adjusted in order to optimize performance, and illustrate the importance of the timing of each system's engagement in determining how competing cognitive and emotional information is processed.

1 Bookmark
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Introduction: We used an affective prime task composed of emotional (happy, angry, and neutral) prime faces and target words with either positive or negative valence. By asking subjects to attend to either the faces’ emotional expression or to the glasses’ shape, we assessed whether angry facial expressions were processed when they were unattended and task-irrelevant. Methods: We conducted a distributed source analysis on the corresponding event-related potentials focused on the early activity of face processing and attention networks’ related areas. We also evaluated the magnitude of the affective priming effect. Results: We observed a reduction of occipitotemporal areas’ (BA37) activation to unattended compared to attended faces and a modulation of primary visual areas’ activity lateralization. The latter was more right lateralized for attended than for unattended faces, and emotional faces were more right lateralized than neutral ones only in the former condition. Affective priming disappeared when emotional expressions of prime faces were ignored. Moreover, an increased activation in the right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), but not in the intraparietal sulcus, was observed only for unattended angry facial expressions at approximately 170 ms after face presentation. Conclusions: We suggest that attentional resources affect the early processing in visual and occipito-temporal areas, irrespective of the faces’ threatening content. The disappearance of the affective priming effect suggests that when subjects were asked to focus on glasses’ shape, attentional resources were not available to process the facial emotional expression, even though emotion relevant and emotion irrelevant features of the face were presented in the same position. On the other hand, unattended angry faces evoked a pre-attentive TPJ activity, which most likely represents a bottom-up trigger that signals their high behavioral relevance, although it is unrelated to task demands.
    Frontiers in Psychology 12/2014; · 2.80 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In the Emotional Stroop task, trauma-exposed victims are slowed when naming the colour print of trauma-related words, showing the presence of interference. This interference has been assumed to reflect emotional reactions triggered by experience-relevant emotional content which interfere with the task. However, it may equally reflect the activation of task-competing thoughts triggered by experience-relevant semantic content, thus resulting from cognitive- rather than emotion-driven processes. This study contrasted these possibilities by measuring the relationship between Emotional Stroop interference, on the one hand, and severity of sexual-abuse experience, subjective ratings of emotionality, and working-memory measures, on the other. Whereas there was no relationship between working-memory measures and interference, providing no support for the cognitive-based account, experience severity, emotionality ratings and abuse-related interference were all positively related, providing support for the emotion-based account. These findings support the idea that the Emotional Stroop task can be used as a diagnostic tool for emotion-filtering impairment.
    Consciousness and Cognition 07/2014; 28C:104-112. · 2.31 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Interactions between cognition and emotion are important for survival, often occurring in the absence of awareness. These interactions have been proposed to involve competition between cognition and emotion for attentional resources. Emotional stimuli have been reported to impair performance on cognitive tasks of low, but not high, load if stimuli are consciously perceived. This study explored whether this load-dependent interference effect occurred in response to subliminal emotional stimuli. Masked emotional (appetitive and aversive), but not neutral, stimuli interfered with performance accuracy but not response time on a cognitive task (n-back) at low (1-back), but not high (2-back) load. These results show that a load-dependent interference effect applies to masked emotional stimuli and that the effect generalises across stimulus categories with high motivational value. This supports models of selective attention that propose that cognition and emotion compete for attentional resources. More specifically, interference from masked emotional stimuli at low load suggests that attention is biased towards salient stimuli, while dissipation of interference under high load involves top-down regulation of attention. Our data also indicate that top-down goal-directed regulation of attention occurs in the absence of awareness and does not require metacognitive monitoring or evaluation of bias over behaviour, i.e., some degree of self-regulation occurs at a non-conscious level.
    PLoS ONE 04/2014; 9(4):e94417. · 3.53 Impact Factor

Full-text (2 Sources)

Available from
May 23, 2014