Motivated attention in emotional picture processing is reflected by activity modulation in cortical attention networks

Neuroimage. 2004 Mar;21(3):954-64. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2003.10.030.


In the present study, we presented high (pleasant and unpleasant)- and low (neutral)-arousing emotional pictures in a steady state visual evoked field paradigm while recording the magnetoencephalogram. Applying a minimum norm estimation (MNE) technique, we determined the origin and the strength of the evoked neuromagnetic field. In addition to magnetocortical data, we examined subjective ratings, heart rate change and viewing time to obtain a multivariate data base of emotional experience related to the present paradigm. As evidenced by the MNE, pictures rated as high arousing elicited greater activity in frontoparietal cortical networks than low-arousing pictures, with a right hemispheric predominance. This effect was also observed in occipito-temporal regions but to a lesser extent. Longer viewing times for high-arousing pictures and sustained heart rate deceleration for high-arousing unpleasant pictures indicated that these stimuli were of high motivational relevance compared to neutral pictures. Taken together, we argue that activity in higher-order frontoparietal cortical attention networks is modulated by emotional arousal. In turn, this attention network influences activity in systems performing stimulus processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Perception / physiology*