Affective learning enhances activity and functional connectivity in early visual cortex

Neuropsychologia. 2009 Oct;47(12):2480-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.04.023. Epub 2009 May 4.


This study examined the impact of task-irrelevant affective information on early visual processing regions V1-V4. Fearful and neutral faces presented with rings of different colors were used as stimuli. During the conditioning phase, fearful faces presented with a certain ring color (e.g., black) were paired with mild electrical stimulation. Neutral faces shown with rings of that color, as well as fearful or neutral faces shown with another ring color (e.g., white), were never paired with shock. Our findings revealed that fearful faces evoked enhanced blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) responses in V1 and V4 compared to neutral faces. Faces embedded in a color ring that was paired with shock (e.g., black) evoked greater BOLD responses in V1-V4 compared to a ring color that was never paired with shock (e.g., white). Finally, BOLD responses in early visual cortex were tightly interrelated (i.e., correlated) during an affectively potent context (i.e., ring color) but not during a neutral one, suggesting that increased functional integration was present with affective learning. Taken together, the results suggest that task-irrelevant affective information not only influences evoked responses in early, retinotopically organized visual cortex, but also determines the pattern of responses across early visual cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Face
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Learning*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / blood supply
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / blood supply
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen