Automatic emotion processing as a function of trait emotional awareness: An fMRI study

Vladimir Lichev, Julia Sacher, Klas Ihme, Nicole Rosenberg, Markus Quirin, Jöran Lepsien, André Pampel, Michael Rufer, Hans Jörgen Grabe, Harald Kugel, Anette Kersting, Arno Villringer, Richard D. Lane, Thomas Suslow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


It is unclear whether reflective awareness of emotions is related to extent and intensity of implicit affective reactions. This study is the first to investigate automatic brain reactivity to emotional stimuli as a function of trait emotional awareness. To assess emotional awareness the Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS) was administered. During scanning, masked happy, angry, fearful and neutral facial expressions were presented to 46 healthy subjects, who had to rate the fit between artificial and emotional words. The rating procedure allowed assessment of shifts in implicit affectivity due to emotion faces. Trait emotional awareness was associated with increased activation in the primary somatosensory cortex, inferior parietal lobule, anterior cingulate gyrus, middle frontal and cerebellar areas, thalamus, putamen and amygdala in response to masked happy faces. LEAS correlated positively with shifts in implicit affect caused by masked happy faces. According to our findings, people with high emotional awareness show stronger affective reactivity and more activation in brain areas involved in emotion processing and simulation during the perception of masked happy facial expression than people with low emotional awareness. High emotional awareness appears to be characterized by an enhanced positive affective resonance to others at an automatic processing level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)680-689
Number of pages10
JournalSocial cognitive and affective neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2015


  • Automatic emotion processing
  • Emotional awareness
  • Implicit affect
  • Neuroimaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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