Common effects of emotional valence, arousal and attention on neural activation during visual processing of pictures

Richard D. Lane, Phyllis M.L. Chua, Raymond J. Dolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

394 Scopus citations


Emotion and attention heighten sensitivity to visual cues. How neural activation patterns associated with emotion change as a function of the availability of attentional resources is unknown. We used positron emission tomography (PET) and 15O-water to measure brain activity in male volunteers while they viewed emotional picture sets that could be classified according to valence or arousal. Subjects simultaneously performed a distraction task that manipulated the availability of attentional resources. Twelve scan conditions were generated in a 3x2x2 factorial design involving three levels of valence (pleasant, unpleasant and neutral), two levels of arousal and two levels of attention (low and high distraction).Extrastriate visual cortical and anterior temporal areas were independently activated by emotional valence, arousal and attention. Common areas of activation derived from a conjunction analysis of these separate activations revealed extensive areas of activation in extrastriate visual cortex with a focus in right BA18 (12, -88, -2) (Z=5.73, P<0.001 corrected) and right anterior temporal cortex BA38 (42, 14, -30) (Z=4.03, P<0.05 corrected). These findings support an hypothesis that emotion and attention modulate both early and late stages of visual processing. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)989-997
Number of pages9
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 1999


  • Amygdala
  • Anterior temporal cortex
  • Arousal
  • Attention
  • Extrastriate visual cortex
  • Functional imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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