The interaction of anticipatory anxiety and emotional picture processing: An event-related brain potential study


  • We are grateful to Beate Hofer for her assistance in data collection. This work was supported, in part, by the German Research Foundation (DFG) grants to H. T. Schupp (Schu1074/7-3, Schu1074/11-1) and a scholarship awarded to F. Bublatzky by the State Ministry for Education and Cultural Affairs of Baden-Wuerttemberg (LGFG).

Address reprint requests to: Florian Bublatzky, University of Konstanz, Department of Psychology, PO Box 36, 78457 Konstanz, Germany. E-mail:


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.