Are we sensitive to valence differences in emotionally negative stimuli? Electrophysiological evidence from an ERP study.Neuropsychologia. 2007 Sep 20; 45(12):2764-71.N
The present study investigated whether the human brain is sensitive to valence differences in emotionally negative stimuli by recording event-related potentials (ERPs) for extremely negative (EN), moderately negative (MN), and neutral pictures while subjects perform a standard/deviant categorization task, irrespective of the emotional valence of the deviants. Using the same design, we also investigated the sensitivity of the human brain to valence differences in emotionally positive stimuli. Experiment 1 showed that EN stimuli elicited more negative deflections than MN stimuli in the early P2 and N2, later P3, and slow negative wave (SNW) components. In contrast, there were no differences in amplitude or latency in these components during the extremely positive (EP) and moderately positive (MP) conditions of Experiment 2. This suggests that humans are only sensitive to valence differences in negative stimuli, and that these negative valences could be processed differentially throughout the information processing stream even when individuals are highly engaged in a non-emotional task.