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2018 JCR, Web of Science Group 2019

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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00281

Expectation gates neural facilitation of emotional words in early visual areas

  • 1Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Germany
  • 2Maastricht University, Netherlands
  • 3Leipzig University, Germany

The current study examined whether emotional expectations gate attention to emotional words in early visual cortex. Colour cues informed about word valence and onset latency. We observed a stimulus-preceding negativity (SPN) prior to the onset of cued words that was larger for negative than for neutral words. This indicates that emotional words are more anticipated than neutral words before target onset. During stimulus presentation the Steady-state visual evoked potential (SSVEP), elicited by flickering words, was attenuated for cued compared to uncued words, indicating sharpened sensory activity i.e. expectation suppression. Most importantly, the SSVEP was more enhanced for negative than neutral words when these were cued. Uncued conditions did not differ in SSVEP amplitudes, paralleling previous studies reporting lexico-semantic but not early visual effects of emotional words. We suggest that cueing mediates the capture of visual resources by providing an early ‘emotional gist’ of an upcoming word. Consequently, visual single-word studies may have underestimated attentional effects of emotional words and their anticipation during reading.

Keywords: emotion, reading, visual attention, anticipation, expectation, SSVEP, SPN

Received: 19 Mar 2019; Accepted: 30 Jul 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Kotz, Trauer and Müller. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Sonja A. Kotz, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany,