Implicit and explicit categorization of natural scenes

Prog Brain Res. 2006;156:53-65. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(06)56003-0.


Event-related potential (ERP) studies have consistently found that emotionally arousing (pleasant and unpleasant) pictures elicit a larger late positive potential (LPP) than neutral pictures in a window from 400 to 800 ms after picture onset. In addition, an early ERP component has been reported to vary with emotional arousal in a window from about 150 to 300 ms with affective, compared to neutral stimuli, prompting significantly less positivity over occipito-temporal sites. Similar early and late ERP components have been found in explicit categorization tasks, suggesting that selective attention to target features results in similar cortical changes. Several studies have shown that the affective modulation of the LPP persisted even when the same pictures are repeated several times, when they are presented as distractors, or when participants are engaged in a competing task. These results indicate that categorization of affective stimuli is an obligatory process. On the other hand, perceptual factors (e.g., stimulus size) seem to affect the early ERP component but not the affective modulation of the LPP. Although early and late ERP components vary with stimulus relevance, given that they are differentially affected by stimulus and task manipulations, they appear to index different facets of picture processing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Visual Perception / physiology*