Accessibility navigation

Emotional arousal amplifies the effects of biased competition in the brain

Lee, T.-H., Sakaki, M. ORCID:, Cheng, R., Velasco, R. and Mather, M. (2014) Emotional arousal amplifies the effects of biased competition in the brain. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9 (12). pp. 2067-2077. ISSN 1749-5024

Text - Accepted Version
· Please see our End User Agreement before downloading.


It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.

To link to this item DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsu015


The arousal-biased competition model predicts that arousal increases the gain on neural competition between stimuli representations. Thus, the model predicts that arousal simultaneously enhances processing of salient stimuli and impairs processing of relatively less-salient stimuli. We tested this model with a simple dot-probe task. On each trial, participants were simultaneously exposed to one face image as a salient cue stimulus and one place image as a non-salient stimulus. A border around the face cue location further increased its bottom-up saliency. Before these visual stimuli were shown, one of two tones played: one that predicted a shock (increasing arousal) or one that did not. An arousal-by-saliency interaction in category-specific brain regions (fusiform face area for salient faces and parahippocampal place area for non-salient places) indicated that brain activation associated with processing the salient stimulus was enhanced under arousal whereas activation associated with processing the non-salient stimulus was suppressed under arousal. This is the first functional magnetic resonance imaging study to demonstrate that arousal can enhance information processing for prioritized stimuli while simultaneously impairing processing of non-prioritized stimuli. Thus, it goes beyond previous research to show that arousal does not uniformly enhance perceptual processing, but instead does so selectively in ways that optimizes attention to highly salient stimuli.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:36912
Publisher:Oxford University Press


Downloads per month over past year

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation