Two electrophysiological stages of spatial orienting towards fearful faces: early temporo-parietal activation preceding gain control in extrastriate visual cortex.Neuroimage. 2005 May 15; 26(1):149-63.N
Visuo-spatial attention tends to be prioritized towards emotionally negative stimuli such as fearful faces, as opposed to neutral or positive stimuli. Using a covert orienting task, we previously showed that a lateral occipital P1 component, with extrastriate neural sources, was selectively enhanced to lateralized visual targets replacing a fearful face (fear-valid trial) than the same targets replacing a neutral face (fear-invalid trial), providing evidence for exogenous spatial orienting of attention towards threat cues. Here, we describe a new analysis of these data, using topographic evoked potentials mapping methods combined with a distributed source localization technique. We show that an early field topography (40-80 ms post-target onset) with a centro-parietal negativity and a left posterior parietal source distinguished fear-valid from fear-invalid trials, whereas a distinct activity with anterior cingulate sources was selectively evoked during fear-invalid trials. At the same latency, or later, no difference in field topography was found for valid compared to invalid trials with happy faces. The early parietal map preceded a modulation in amplitude of the field strength (approximately 130 ms), corresponding to the enhanced lateral occipital P1 during valid trials in the fear condition. Furthermore, this early topography at 40-80 ms was positively correlated with the subsequent amplitude modulation of P1 at 130-160 ms in the fear condition, suggesting a possible functional coupling between these two successive events. These data have important implications for models of spatial attention and interactions with emotion. They suggest two successive stages of neural activity during exogenous orienting of attention towards visual targets following fearful faces, including an early posterior parietal negativity, followed by gain control mechanisms enhancing visual responses in extrastriate occipital cortex.