Category: Cognitive Science / Cognitive Processes

Symposium

Neurocognitive Mechanisms Behind Emotional Attention: Gaze Disengagement From Emotional Faces

Friday, November 17
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom E & F, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Emotion | Attention | Neuroscience
Presentation Type: Symposium

Background: Current research aims to clarify the neural substrates of emotional attention processes involved in the development and maintenance of emotional disorders. Attention impairments implicated in emotional dysregulation are related to right over left hemisphere asymmetries in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (i.e., DLPFC). It has been shown that right DLPFC stimulation leads to difficulties disengaging from negative information, whereas left DLPFC stimulation leads to diminished attentional engagement. Yet, previous studies used reaction time-based measures,  not allowing a direct measurement of attentional engagement towards and attentional disengagement away from both positive and negative information.
Methods: Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and eye tracking were used to investigate the involvement of the right (study 1) and left (study 2) DLPFC in components of gaze behavior towards emotional faces. In both studies, we used a novel eye-tracking task that allowed obtaining direct measures of gaze engagement with and gaze disengagement from both positive and negative faces. Study 1 examined the involvement of right DLPFC on emotional attention dysregulation in a sample of undergraduates (n=30) who received 20 minutes of active and sham anodal tDCS applied over the right DLPFC on two separate days and completed the attention task after receiving both real and sham stimulation. Study 2 (n=28) examined the involvement of left DLPFC on emotional attention regulation, using the same protocol, but comprising active/sham stimulation of the left instead of the right DLPFC.
Results: Compared to sham, anodal tDCS over right DLPFC led to impaired (longer) gaze disengagement from both positive and negative faces, F(1,29) = 12.91, p = .01, partial eta square= .31. In contrast, anodal tDCS over left DLPFC led to improved (faster) gaze disengagement from emotional faces, F(1,27) = 4.20, p = .05, partial eta square= .14.
Conclusion: Current findings demonstrate an inverse role of right and left DLPFC activity in the generation/reduction of emotional visual-spatial attention processes that are implicated in emotion (dys)regulation processes.

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