Tuning the brain for novelty detection under emotional threat: the role of increasing gamma phase-synchronization

Neuroimage. 2010 Jan 1;49(1):1038-44. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.07.059. Epub 2009 Jul 30.


Effective orienting of attention towards novel events is crucial for survival, particularly if they occur in a dangerous situation. This is why stimuli with emotional value are more efficient in capturing attention than neutral stimuli, and why the processing of unexpected novel stimuli is enhanced under a negative emotional context. Here we measured the phase-synchronization (PS) of gamma-band responses (GBR) from human EEG scalp-recordings during performance of a visual discrimination task in which task-irrelevant standard and novel sounds were presented in either a neutral or a negative emotional context, in order to elucidate the brain mechanisms by which emotion tunes the processing of novel events. Visual task performance was distracted by novel sounds, and this distraction was enhanced by the negative emotional context. Similarly, gamma PS was enhanced after novel as compared to standard sounds and it was also larger to auditory stimuli in the negative than in the neutral emotional context, reflecting the synchronization of neural networks for increasing of attentional processing. Remarkably, the larger PS increase of GBR after novel sounds in the negative as compared to the neutral emotional context over midline and right frontal regions reveals that a negative emotional context tunes novelty processing by means of the PS of brain activity in the gamma frequency band around 40 Hz in specific neural networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cortical Synchronization*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Young Adult