Eye movement related brain responses to emotional scenes during free viewing

Jaana Simola, Jari Torniainen, Mona Moisala, Markus Kivikangas, Christina M. Krause

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


    Emotional stimuli are preferentially processed over neutral stimuli. Previous studies, however, disagree on whether emotional stimuli capture attention preattentively or whether the processing advantage is dependent on allocation of attention. The present study investigated attention and emotion processes by measuring brain responses related to eye movement events while 11 participants viewed images selected from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). Brain responses to emotional stimuli were compared between serial and parallel presentation. An “emotional” set included one image with high positive or negative valence among neutral images. A “neutral” set comprised four neutral images. The participants were asked to indicate which picture—if any—was emotional and to rate that picture on valence and arousal. In the serial condition, the event-related potentials (ERPs) were time-locked to the stimulus onset. In the parallel condition, the ERPs were time-locked to the first eye entry on an image. The eye movement results showed facilitated processing of emotional, especially unpleasant information. The EEG results in both presentation conditions showed that the LPP (“late positive potential”) amplitudes at 400–500 ms were enlarged for the unpleasant and pleasant pictures as compared to neutral pictures. Moreover, the unpleasant scenes elicited stronger responses than pleasant scenes. The ERP results did not support parafoveal emotional processing, although the eye movement results suggested faster attention capture by emotional stimuli. Our findings, thus, suggested that emotional processing depends on overt attentional resources engaged in the processing of emotional content. The results also indicate that brain responses to emotional images can be analyzed time-locked to eye movement events, although the response amplitudes were larger during serial presentation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberArticle 41
    JournalFrontiers in Systems Neuroscience
    Issue numberArticle 41
    Pages (from-to)1-16
    Number of pages16
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2013
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Fields of Science

    • 515 Psychology
    • EEG
    • eye movements
    • co-registration
    • fixation-related potentials
    • free viewing
    • late positive potential LPP

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