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Keywords:

  • Anxiety;
  • Threat of Shock;
  • Emotion;
  • Attention;
  • ERP

Abstract

The present study examined the interaction of anticipatory anxiety and selective emotion processing. Toward this end, a rapid stream of pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant pictures was presented in alternating blocks of threat-of-shock or safety, which were signaled by colored picture frames. The main finding is that pleasant pictures elicited a sustained negative difference potential over occipital regions during threat as compared to safety periods. In contrast, unpleasant and neutral picture processing did not vary as a function of threat-of-shock. Furthermore, in both the safety and threat-of-shock conditions, emotional pictures elicited an enlarged early posterior negativity and late positive potential. These data show that the activation of the fear/anxiety network exerts valence-specific effects on affective picture processing. Pleasant stimuli mismatching the current state of anticipatory anxiety apparently draw more attentional resources.