Event-related brain potentials and affective responses to threat in spider/snake-phobic and non-phobic subjects

Int J Psychophysiol. 2005 Jul;57(1):43-52. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2005.01.012.


We investigated cortical responses and valence/arousal ratings of spider phobic, snake phobic, and healthy subjects while they were processing feared, fear-relevant, emotional neutral, and pleasant stimuli. Results revealed significantly larger amplitudes of late ERP components (P3 and late positive complex, LPC) but not of early components (N1, P2, N2) in phobics when subjects were processing feared stimuli. This fear-associated increase of amplitudes of late ERP components in phobic subjects was maximal at centro-parietal and occipital brain sites. Furthermore, phobics but not controls rated feared stimuli to be more negative and arousing than fear-relevant, emotional neutral, and pleasant stimuli. Since late ERP components and valence/arousal ratings were only significantly increased when phobic subjects but not when healthy controls were processing feared stimuli, the present data suggest that P3 and LPC amplitudes represent useful neural correlates of the emotional significance and meaning of stimuli.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phobic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Snakes
  • Spiders