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Neuroimage. 2016 Jan 1;124(Pt A):931-946. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.09.065. Epub 2015 Oct 8.

Emotional facial expressions evoke faster orienting responses, but weaker emotional responses at neural and behavioural levels compared to scenes: A simultaneous EEG and facial EMG study.

Author information

1
School of Psychology, University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia; Centre for Translational Neuroscience and Mental Health, University of Newcastle, NSW Australia.
2
University Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Tübingen, Germany; Department of Psychology, University of Würzburg, Germany.
3
School of Psychology, University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia; Centre for Translational Neuroscience and Mental Health, University of Newcastle, NSW Australia; CanBeLab, Department of Psychology, Webster Vienna Private University, Palais Wenkheim, Vienna, Austria; Faculty of Psychology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria. Electronic address: Peter.Walla@newcastle.edu.au.

Abstract

In the current study, electroencephalography (EEG) was recorded simultaneously with facial electromyography (fEMG) to determine whether emotional faces and emotional scenes are processed differently at the neural level. In addition, it was investigated whether these differences can be observed at the behavioural level via spontaneous facial muscle activity. Emotional content of the stimuli did not affect early P1 activity. Emotional faces elicited enhanced amplitudes of the face-sensitive N170 component, while its counterpart, the scene-related N100, was not sensitive to emotional content of scenes. At 220-280ms, the early posterior negativity (EPN) was enhanced only slightly for fearful as compared to neutral or happy faces. However, its amplitudes were significantly enhanced during processing of scenes with positive content, particularly over the right hemisphere. Scenes of positive content also elicited enhanced spontaneous zygomatic activity from 500-750ms onwards, while happy faces elicited no such changes. Contrastingly, both fearful faces and negative scenes elicited enhanced spontaneous corrugator activity at 500-750ms after stimulus onset. However, relative to baseline EMG changes occurred earlier for faces (250ms) than for scenes (500ms) whereas for scenes activity changes were more pronounced over the whole viewing period. Taking into account all effects, the data suggests that emotional facial expressions evoke faster attentional orienting, but weaker affective neural activity and emotional behavioural responses compared to emotional scenes.

KEYWORDS:

Affective processing; Early posterior negativity; Electroencephalography; Emotion; Faces and scenes; N100; N170; Spontaneous facial EMG

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