Electrocortical amplification for emotionally arousing natural scenes: The contribution of luminance and chromatic visual channels

Vladimir Miskovic, Jasna Martinovic, Matthias M Wieser, Nathan M Petro, Margaret M Bradley, Andreas Keil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Emotionally arousing scenes readily capture visual attention, prompting amplified neural activity in sensory regions of the brain. The physical stimulus features and related information channels in the human visual system that contribute to this modulation, however, are not known. Here, we manipulated low-level physical parameters of complex scenes varying in hedonic valence and emotional arousal in order to target the relative contributions of luminance based versus chromatic visual channels to emotional perception. Stimulus-evoked brain electrical activity was measured during picture viewing and used to quantify neural responses sensitive to lower-tier visual cortical involvement (steady-state visual evoked potentials) as well as the late positive potential, reflecting a more distributed cortical event. Results showed that the enhancement for emotional content was stimulus-selective when examining the steady-state segments of the evoked visual potentials. Response amplification was present only for low spatial frequency, grayscale stimuli, and not for high spatial frequency, red/green stimuli. In contrast, the late positive potential was modulated by emotion regardless of the scene's physical properties. Our findings are discussed in relation to neurophysiologically plausible constraints operating at distinct stages of the cortical processing stream.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-17
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychology
Early online date29 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Date of Acceptance: 21/01/2015

This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant R01 MH097320 to AK. The authors would like to thank Hailey Bulls for assistance in data acquisition.

Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier B.V.


  • affective perception
  • emotion
  • steady-state visual evoked potentials
  • attention
  • late positive potential
  • visual cortex
  • spatial frequency


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