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Fear that face! - Electrocortical facilitation of threat-predictive faces in early visual cortex Seminar

12:30 - 13:30
4 February 2016
University of Southampton, Highfield Campus, Building 44 (Shackleton), Room 3031/3033

For more information regarding this seminar, please telephone Sue McNally on 02380 595150 or email .

Event details

Sensory facilitation of cues that predict harm is a useful mechanism for efficient detection of threat in the environment. Here, I report studies employing steady-state visual evoked potentials (ssVEPs) in which sensory gain in early visual cortex was investigated either in response to inherently threatening faces (i.e. angry facial expressions) or in response to faces which acquired threat-value through Pavlovian conditioning. Inherently threating faces enhanced sensory gain in high socially anxious individuals, only. Across conditioning experiments, amplitudes of the face-evoked ssVEP revealed larger cortical mass activity in response to faces paired with aversive stimuli indicating successful affective learning and concomitant short-term plasticity in visual cortex depending on the learning experience. Interestingly, this learning effect was found in low socially anxious participants, but high socially anxious subjects did not differentiate cortically between “friends” or “foes”. Together, these results point at the preferential processing of both inherently and learned social threat in early visual cortex depending on individual levels of social anxiety.

Speaker information

Dr Matthias Wieser, University of Wuerzburg. Research interests: ◾Emotion and ERPs ◾Perception, Attention and Emotion ◾Avoidance in virtual social interaction ◾Gaze behaviour in social anxiety Recent publications: Wieser, M. J., Miskovic, V., Rausch, S., & Keil., A. (in press). Different time course of visuocortical signal changes to fear-conditioned faces with direct or averted gaze: A ssVEP study with single-trial analysis. Neuropsychologia. Wieser, M. J., Flaisch, T., & Pauli, P. (in press). Raised middle-finger: Electrocortical correlates of social conditioning with nonverbal affective gestures. PLOS ONE

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