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Biol Psychol. 2007 Oct;76(3):156-62. Epub 2007 Jul 26.

Modification of N170 by different emotional expression of schematic faces.

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  • 1Department of Physiological Psychology, University of Wuppertal, Max-Horkheimer-Strasse 20, 42119 Wuppertal, Germany.


The N170 is widely regarded as a face sensitive potential, having its maximum at occipito-temporal sites, with right-hemisphere dominance. However, it is debatable whether the N170 is modulated by different emotional expressions of a face. The aim of this study was to analyze the N170 elicited by schematic happy and angry faces when the emotional expression is semantically processed. To investigate the influence of different emotional expressions of schematic faces, we used a Prime-Probe procedure with the N400 effect as an indicator for a semantic processing. Eighteen subjects were presented the German word "happiness" or "anger" followed by happy and angry faces. The word-face pair could be congruent or incongruent in emotional meaning. Subjects were instructed to compare the emotional meaning of the words and faces and to count the congruent trials. Event-related potentials were recorded from 124 sites. Congruent faces elicited a smaller negativity in the N400 time range than incongruent faces, indicating that the facial emotional expression was cognitively processed. The face sensitive N170 was most pronounced at posterior and occipital sites, and N170 amplitudes were larger following the angry as compared to the happy faces. It is concluded that different emotional expressions of schematic faces can modulate the N170.

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