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Emotion. 2009 Feb;9(1):59-69. doi: 10.1037/a0014487.

Individual differences in valence modulation of face-selective M170 response.

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  • 1Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-1366, USA.


Magnetoencephalography was used to examine the effect of individual differences on the temporal dynamics of emotional face processing by grouping subjects based on their ability to detect masked valence-laden stimuli. Receiver operating characteristic curves and a nonparametric sensitivity measure were used to categorize subjects into those that could and could not reliably detect briefly presented fearful faces that were backward-masked by neutral faces. Results showed that, in a cluster of face-responsive sensors, the strength of the M170 response was modulated by valence only when subjects could reliably detect the masked fearful faces. Source localization of the M170 peak using synthetic aperture magnetometry identified sources in face processing areas such as right middle occipital gyrus and left fusiform gyrus that showed the valence effect for those target durations at which subjects were sensitive to the fearful stimulus. Subjects who were better able to detect fearful faces also showed higher trait anxiety levels. These results suggest that individual differences between subjects, such as trait anxiety levels and sensitivity to fearful stimuli, may be an important factor to consider when studying emotion processing.

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