Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Wioleta Walentowska (Donders Series 104)

November 19, 2012

Promotors: Prof.dr. A. Coenen, Prof. dr. J. Kaiser

Facing emotional faces. The nature of automaticity of facial emotion processing studied with ERPs

Neuroscientists use electroencephalography (EEG) and evoked potentials (ERPs) to track fast changes in brain activity and to investigate human affective and cognitive processes. Current experiments were run to inspect brain reactions to some affective faces: expressing happiness, fear, or anger. Results show that facial emotions can be processed rapidly and unintentionally. The most striking outcomes, however, demonstrate that facial expressions can be processed unconsciously (so when people claim that they have not seen anything, but their brains have ‘seen’), and that people with highly-anxious personality react oversensitively to facial affect. These results answer numerous questions about the nature of automatic facial emotion processing. And having in mind that they also describe some aspects of anxious personality, they have several clinical implications and can be further used to investigate the core aspects of anxiety-related disorders and their therapy.