Time course of competition for visual processing resources between emotional pictures and foreground task

Matthias M Müller, Søren K Andersen, Andreas Keil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

90 Citations (Scopus)


High-arousing emotional stimuli facilitate early visual cortex, thereby acting as strong competitors for processing resources in visual cortex. The present study used an electrophysiological approach for continuously measuring the time course of competition for processing resources in the visual pathway arising from emotionally salient but task-irrelevant input while performing a foreground target detection task. Steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs) were recorded to rapidly flickering squares superimposed upon neutral and emotionally high-arousing pictures, and variations in SSVEP amplitude over time were calculated. As reflected in SSVEP amplitude and target detection rates, arousing emotional background pictures withdrew processing resources from the detection task compared with neutral ones for several hundred milliseconds after stimulus onset. SSVEP amplitude was found to bear a close temporal relationship with accurate target detection as a function of time after stimulus onset.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1892-1899
Number of pages8
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number8
Early online date5 Dec 2007
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008



  • attention
  • biased competition
  • emotion
  • human EEG

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