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Neuroimage. 2005 Dec;28(4):1022-32. Epub 2005 Aug 8.

Incidental effects of emotional valence in single word processing: an fMRI study.

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Department of Psychology, Free University of Berlin, Germany.


The present study aimed at identifying the neural responses associated with the incidental processing of the emotional valence of single words using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Twenty right-handed participants performed a visual lexical decision task, discriminating between nouns and orthographically and phonologically legal nonwords. Positive, neutral and negative word categories were matched for frequency, number and frequency of orthographic neighbors, number of letters and imageability. Response times and accuracy data differed significantly between positive and neutral, and positive and negative words respectively, thus, replicating the findings of a pilot study. Words showed distributed, mainly left hemisphere activations, indicating involvement of a neural network responsible for semantic word knowledge. The neuroimaging data further revealed areas in left orbitofrontal gyrus and bilateral inferior frontal gyrus with greater activation to emotional than to neutral words. These brain regions are known to be involved in processing semantic and emotional information. Furthermore, distinct activations associated with positive words were observed in bilateral middle temporal and superior frontal gyrus, known to support semantic retrieval, and a distributed network, namely anterior and posterior cingulate gyrus, lingual gyrus and hippocampus when comparing positive and negative words. The latter areas were previously associated with explicit and not incidental processing of the emotional meaning of words and emotional memory retrieval. Thus, the results are discussed in relation to models of processing semantic and episodic emotional information.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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