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Looking to the eyes influences the processing of emotion on face-sensitive event-related potentials in 7-month-old infants

Authors

  • Ross E. Vanderwert,

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Division of Developmental Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
    2. Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Alissa Westerlund,

    1. Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Division of Developmental Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Lina Montoya,

    1. Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Division of Developmental Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Sarah A. McCormick,

    1. Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Division of Developmental Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Helga O. Miguel,

    1. ClPsi Department of Basic Psychology, School of Psychology, Universidade do Minho, Braga, Portugal
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  • Charles A. Nelson

    1. Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Division of Developmental Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
    2. Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
    3. Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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ABSTRACT

Previous studies in infants have shown that face-sensitive components of the ongoing electroencephalogram (the event-related potential, or ERP) are larger in amplitude to negative emotions (e.g., fear, anger) versus positive emotions (e.g., happy). However, it is still unclear whether the negative emotions linked with the face or the negative emotions alone contribute to these amplitude differences. We simultaneously recorded infant looking behaviors (via eye-tracking) and face-sensitive ERPs while 7-month-old infants viewed human faces or animals displaying happy, fear, or angry expressions. We observed that the amplitude of the N290 was greater (i.e., more negative) to angry animals compared to happy or fearful animals; no such differences were obtained for human faces. Eye-tracking data highlighted the importance of the eye region in processing emotional human faces. Infants that spent more time looking to the eye region of human faces showing fearful or angry expressions had greater N290 or P400 amplitudes, respectively. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol 75: 1154–1163, 2015

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