Modulation of early conflict processing: N200 responses to emotional words in a flanker task

Neuropsychologia. 2010 Oct;48(12):3661-4. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.07.021. Epub 2010 Jul 21.


Recent evidence shows that emotion can facilitate the processing of conflict. This effect is subserved by a neural network including the ventral and dorsal portions of the anterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala. However, the time course of emotional modulation of conflict processing is unknown. Therefore, we presented emotional and neutral words in a version of the flanker task and recorded event-related brain potentials (ERP). Reaction times replicated accelerated conflict processing in emotional compared to neutral trials. We also observed a conflict-related negativity at 200 ms after stimulus onset. Interestingly, this N200 amplitude difference was enhanced in emotional trials. These data indicate an early influence of emotion on the processing of conflict. Such an adaptive mechanism ensures rapid resolution of conflict in potentially threatening situations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Vocabulary*
  • Young Adult