Emotional expectations influence neural sensitivity to fearful faces in humans: an event-related potential study.Sci China Life Sci. 2010 Nov; 53(11):1361-8.SC
The present study tested whether neural sensitivity to salient emotional facial expressions was influenced by emotional expectations induced by a cue that validly predicted the expression of a subsequently presented target face. Event-related potentials (ERPs) elicited by fearful and neutral faces were recorded while participants performed a gender discrimination task under cued ('expected') and uncued ('unexpected') conditions. The behavioral results revealed that accuracy was lower for fearful compared with neutral faces in the unexpected condition, while accuracy was similar for fearful and neutral faces in the expected condition. ERP data revealed increased amplitudes in the P2 component and 200-250 ms interval for unexpected fearful versus neutral faces. By contrast, ERP responses were similar for fearful and neutral faces in the expected condition. These findings indicate that human neural sensitivity to fearful faces is modulated by emotional expectations. Although the neural system is sensitive to unpredictable emotionally salient stimuli, sensitivity to salient stimuli is reduced when these stimuli are predictable.