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Title: Emotional processing of natural visual images in brief exposures and compound stimuli : fMRI and behavioural studies
Author: Shaw, Lynda Joan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2725 3737
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2009
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Can the brain register the emotional valence of brief exposures of complex natural stimuli under conditions of forward and backward masking, and under conditions of attentional competition between foveal and peripheral stimuli? To address this question, three experiments were conducted. The first, a behavioural experiment, measured subjective valence of response (pleasant vs unpleasant) to test the perception of the valence of natural images in brief, masked exposures in a forward and backward masking paradigm. Images were chosen from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) series. After correction for response bias, responses to the majority of target stimuli were concordant with the IAPS ratings at better than chance, even when the presence of the target was undetected. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the effects of IAPS valence and stimulus category were objectively measured on nine regions of interest (ROIs) using the same strict temporal restrictions in a similar masking design. Evidence of affective processing close to or below conscious threshold was apparent in some of the ROIs. To further this line of enquiry, a second fMRI experiment mapping the same ROIs and using the same stimuli were presented in a foveal (‘attended’) peripheral (‘to-be-ignored’) paradigm (small image superimposed in the centre of a large image of the same category, but opposite valence) to investigate spatial parameters and limitations of attention. Results are interpreted as showing both valence and category specific effects of ‘to-be-ignored’ images in the periphery. These results are discussed in light of theories of the limitations of attentional capacity and the speed in which we process natural images, providing new evidence of the breadth of variety in the types of affective visual stimuli we are able to process close to the threshold of conscious perception.
Supervisor: Wright, M.; O'Brien, J. Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Amygdala; Anterior Cingulate Cortex; medial Prefrontal Cortex ; Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex; Orbitofrontal Cortex; Parahippocampus ; Fusiform Gyrus; Insula; Superior Temporal Gyrus; consciousness; attention ; masking; fMRI