In this study, we assessed the impact of the emotional facial expression of fear when projected in near and far periphery.
Sixteen participants were asked to categorize fearful and neutral faces projected at four peripheral visual locations (15° and 30° of eccentricity in right and left sides of the visual field) while reaction times and event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. ERPs were analyzed by means of spatio-temporal principal component and baseline-to-peak methods.
Behavioral data confirmed the decrease of performance with eccentricity and showed that fearful faces induced shorter reaction times than neutral ones.
Electrophysiological data revealed that the spatial position and the emotional content of faces modulated ERPs components.
In particular, the amplitude of N170 was enhanced by fearful facial expression.
These findings shed light on how visual eccentricity modulates the processing of emotional faces and suggest that, despite impoverished visual conditions, the preferential neural coding of fearful expression of faces still persists in far peripheral vision.
The emotional content of faces could therefore contribute to their foveal or attentional capture, like in social interactions.
Université de Lille Nord de France, F-59000, France. simon.rigoulot [at] gmail.com
Neuropsychologia. 2011 Jun;49(7):2013-21
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