Interrelations between motivational stance, cortical excitability, and the frontal electroencephalogram asymmetry of emotion: a transcranial magnetic stimulation study

Hum Brain Mapp. 2008 May;29(5):574-80. doi: 10.1002/hbm.20417.


Several electrophysiological studies have provided evidence for the frontal asymmetry of emotion. In this model the motivation to approach is lateralized to the left, whereas the motivation to avoidance is lateralized to the right hemisphere. The aim of the present experiment was to seek evidence for this model by relating electrophysiological and phenomenological indices of frontal asymmetry to a direct measure of cortical excitability. Frontal asymmetrical resting states of the electroencephalogram and motivational tendencies indexed by the Carver and White questionnaire were compared with neural excitability of the left and right primary motor cortex as assessed by transcranial magnetic stimulation in 24 young healthy right-handed volunteers. In agreement with the model of frontal asymmetry, predominant left over right frontal cortical excitability was associated with enhanced emotional approach relative to emotional avoidance. Moreover, the asymmetries of brain excitability and approach-avoidance motivational predispositions were both reflected by frontal beta (13-30 Hz) electroencephalogram asymmetries. In conclusion, the currently demonstrated interconnections between cortical excitability, electrophysiological activity, and self-reported emotional tendencies for approach or avoidance support the frontal asymmetry of emotion model and provide novel insights into its biological underpinnings.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*