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Psychophysiology. 1998 Mar;35(2):199-210.

Emotional arousal and activation of the visual cortex: an fMRI analysis.

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University of Florida, Gainesville 32610, USA.


Functional activity in the visual cortex was assessed using functional magnetic resonance imaging technology while participants viewed a series of pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant pictures. Coronal images at four different locations in the occipital cortex were acquired during each of eight 12-s picture presentation periods (on) and 12-s interpicture interval (off). The extent of functional activation was larger in the right than the left hemisphere and larger in the occipital than in the occipitoparietal regions during processing of all picture contents compared with the interpicture intervals. More importantly, functional activity was significantly greater in all sampled brain regions when processing emotional (pleasant or unpleasant) pictures than when processing neutral stimuli. In Experiment 2, a hypothesis that these differences were an artifact of differential eye movements was ruled out. Whereas both emotional and neutral pictures produced activity centered on the calcarine fissure (Area 17), only emotional pictures also produced sizable clusters bilaterally in the occipital gyrus, in the right fusiform gyrus, and in the right inferior and superior parietal lobules.

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