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. 2002 Dec;32(6):335-42.
doi: 10.1016/s0987-7053(02)00337-4.

Modulation of Visual Event-Related Potentials by Emotional Olfactory Stimuli


Modulation of Visual Event-Related Potentials by Emotional Olfactory Stimuli

M Bensafi et al. Neurophysiol Clin. .


The objective of the present study was to determine whether an olfactory prime could modulate behavior and visual event-related potentials (ERPs) obtained in response to a visual stimulation representing female faces. More specifically, we tested the hypothesis that a pleasant odor could have effects on face perception: behavioral effects on subjective emotional estimation of faces, and on associated response times, and electrophysiological effects on the N400 and late positive complex or LPC. Experiments were performed in which subjects had to decide whether the presented face was pleasant or not, while visual ERPs were recorded. Faces were always primed with either a pleasant odor or a neutral olfactory stimulus (pure air). In order to test the effect of subject's awareness, participants were not informed that an odor would be presented in the experimental sessions. Responses were significantly shorter for unpleasant faces. However, no behavioral effects of the pleasant odor on response time or on evaluation of face pleasantness were observed. Late ERPs evoked by faces were modulated by the presence of a pleasant odor, even when subjects were neither warned nor aware of the presence of the odor: in a frontal site and after the diffusion of the odor, the LPC (appearing 550 ms after the presentation of the visual stimulus) evoked by unpleasant faces was significantly more positive than the LPC evoked by pleasant faces. This effect could reflect an enhanced alert reaction to unpleasant faces are preceded by an (incongrous) pleasant odor.

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