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Behavioral and neural indices of affective coloring for neutral social stimuli

By Daniel W. Grupe, Stacey M. Schaefer, Regina C. Lapate, Andrew J. Schoen, Lauren K. Gresham, JA Mumford, Richard J. Davidson

Posted 20 Aug 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/178384 (published DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsy011)

Emotional processing often continues beyond the presentation of emotionally evocative stimuli, which can result in affective biasing or coloring of subsequently encountered events. Here, we describe neural correlates of affective coloring and examine how individual differences in affective style impact the magnitude of affective coloring. We conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging in 117 adults who passively viewed negative, neutral, and positive pictures presented 2s prior to neutral faces. Brain responses to neutral faces were modulated by the valence of preceding pictures, with greater activation for faces following negative (vs. positive) pictures in the amygdala, dorsomedial and lateral prefrontal cortex, ventral visual cortices, posterior superior temporal sulcus, and angular gyrus. Three days after the MRI scan, participants rated their memory and liking of previously encountered neutral faces. Individuals higher in trait positive affect and emotional reappraisal rated faces as more likable when preceded by emotionally arousing (negative or positive) pictures. Additionally, greater amygdala responses to neutral faces preceded by positively valenced pictures were associated with greater memory for these faces three days later. Collectively, these results reveal individual differences in how emotions spill over onto the processing of unrelated social stimuli, resulting in persistent and affectively biased evaluations of such stimuli.

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