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Spatial attention affects the early processing of neutral versus fearful faces when they are task-irrelevant: a classifier study of the EEG C1 component

Acunzo, David; MacKenzie, Graham; Van Rossum, Mark

Authors

David Acunzo

Graham MacKenzie

Mark Van Rossum



Abstract

EEG studies suggest that the emotional content of visual stimuli is processed rapidly. In particular, the C1 component, which occurs up to 100 ms after stimulus onset and likely reflects activity in primary visual cortex V1, has been reported to be sensitive to emotional faces. However, difficulties replicating these results have been reported. We hypothesized that the nature of the task and attentional condition are key to reconcile the conflicting findings. We report three experiments of EEG activity during the C1 time range elicited by peripherally presented neutral and fearful faces under various attentional conditions: the faces were spatially attended or unattended and were either task-relevant or not. Using traditional event-related potential analysis, we found that the early activity changed depending on facial expression, attentional condition, and task. In addition, we trained classifiers to discriminate the different conditions from the EEG signals. Although the classifiers were not able to discriminate between facial expressions in any condition, they uncovered differences between spatially attended and unattended faces but solely when these were task-irrelevant. In addition, this effect was only present for neutral faces. Our study provides further indication that attention and task are key parameters when measuring early differences between emotional and neutral visual stimuli.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2019-02
Print ISSN 1530-7026
Publisher BMC
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 1
Pages 123–137
APA6 Citation Acunzo, D., MacKenzie, G., & Van Rossum, M. (2019). Spatial attention affects the early processing of neutral versus fearful faces when they are task-irrelevant: a classifier study of the EEG C1 component. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience, 19(1), 123–137. doi:10.3758/s13415-018-00650-7
DOI https://doi.org/10.3758/s13415-018-00650-7
Publisher URL https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758%2Fs13415-018-00650-7
Additional Information This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience. The final authenticated version is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13415-018-00650-7

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