Oscillatory brain activity associated with skin conductance responses in the context of risk

J Neurophysiol. 2021 Sep 1;126(3):924-933. doi: 10.1152/jn.00014.2021. Epub 2021 Aug 4.


Understanding the neural correlates of risk-sensitive skin conductance responses can provide insights into their connection to emotional and cognitive processes. To provide insights into this connection, we studied the cortical correlates of risk-sensitive skin conductance peaks using electroencephalography. Fluctuations in skin conductance responses were elicited while participants played a threat-of-shock card game. Precise temporal information about skin conductance peaks was obtained by applying continuous decomposition analysis on raw electrodermal signals. Shortly preceding skin conductance peaks, we observed a decrease in oscillatory power in the frequency range between 3 and 17 Hz in occipitotemporal cortical areas. Atlas-based analysis indicated the left lingual gyrus as the source of the power decrease. The oscillatory power averaged across 3-17 Hz showed a significant negative relationship with the skin conductance peak amplitude. Our findings indicate a possible interaction between attention and threat perception.NEW & NOTEWORTHY We studied neural oscillations associated with risk-sensitive skin conductance responses. Going beyond previous studies, we applied methods with high-temporal resolution to account for the temporal properties of the sympathetic activity. Preceding skin conductance peaks, we observed decreased occipital cortex oscillatory power and a relationship between the oscillatory power decrease and the skin conductance peak amplitude. Our study suggests an interaction between attention and emotion such as threat perception reflected in skin conductance responses.

Keywords: arousal; attention; neural oscillations; threat; visual processing.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Waves*
  • Galvanic Skin Response*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occipital Lobe / physiology*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Young Adult