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Neuropsychologia. 2008 Apr;46(5):1338-48. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.12.013. Epub 2008 Feb 4.

Electrophysiological correlates of spatial orienting towards angry faces: a source localization study.

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Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.


The goal of this study was to examine behavioral and electrophysiological correlates of involuntary orienting toward rapidly presented angry faces in non-anxious, healthy adults using a dot-probe task in conjunction with high-density event-related potentials and a distributed source localization technique. Consistent with previous studies, participants showed hypervigilance toward angry faces, as indexed by facilitated response time for validly cued probes following angry faces and an enhanced P1 component. An opposite pattern was found for happy faces suggesting that attention was directed toward the relatively more threatening stimuli within the visual field (neutral faces). Source localization of the P1 effect for angry faces indicated increased activity within the anterior cingulate cortex, possibly reflecting conflict experienced during invalidly cued trials. No modulation of the early C1 component was found for affect or spatial attention. Furthermore, the face-sensitive N170 was not modulated by emotional expression. Results suggest that the earliest modulation of spatial attention by face stimuli is manifested in the P1 component, and provide insights about mechanisms underlying attentional orienting toward cues of threat and social disapproval.

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