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Poster A54

Emotion impacts the entrainment of concurrent visual stimuli

Poster Session A - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Nathan M. Petro1 (, Yi Wei1, Giorgia Picci1,2, Thomas W. Ward1,2, Christine M. Embury1, Hannah J. Okelberry1, Jason A. John1, Ryan Glesinger1, Lucy K. Horne1, Tony W. Wilson1,2; 1Institute for Human Neuroscience, Boys Town National Research Hospital, 2Department of Pharmacology & Neuroscience, Creighton University

Faces are ubiquitous social cues which signal motivationally relevant information, such as others’ intentions or environmental variables. Prior work has indicated that emotional compared to neutral expressions attract attention and evoke heightened visual cortical activity. However, the precise brain regions involved in such biasing of visual cortical activity by emotional expressions are not well characterized. Thirty adults (17 female; mean age=31 years) underwent magnetoencephalography (MEG) while viewing Gabor patches that were superimposed on a distracting face that was either angry, neutral, or happy. Both stimuli were flickered on-and-off at distinct frequencies (18.5 and 34.2Hz, respectively) to entrain neural populations. The MEG signals at the entrainment frequencies were extracted in the frequency domain and subsequently imaged using a beamformer. Both stimuli elicited strong entrainment in primary visual cortices. Face entrainment was strongest for angry and happy relative to neutral faces in the inferior parietal cortex (F2,58=8.00, p=.001), suggesting that this region may enhance the processing of emotional expressions amid ongoing task-driven attention. In contrast, Gabor entrainment in the cuneus was weaker in the presence of angry and happy compared to neutral faces (F2,58=7.77, p=.001), indicating that emotional content diminishes the processing of task-relevant visual information in this occipital cortical region. In addition, angry compared to happy expressions entrained more strongly in the calcarine fissure (t29=3.18, p<.01), pointing to a role of early visual cortices in facilitating the processing of negative expressions in particular. These results are consistent with work implicating canonical attention regions in processing emotional content conveyed through facial expressions.

Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions


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April 13–16  |  2024