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2019
Article
Flaisch, T., Steinhauser, M., & Schupp, H. T.

Adaptive cognitive control attenuates the late positive potential to emotional distractors

Flaisch, T., Steinhauser, M., & Schupp, H. T. (2019). Adaptive cognitive control attenuates the late positive potential to emotional distractors. NeuroImage, 200, 51-58. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.06.040

Emotional pictures are inherently prioritized during stimulus perception. While this preferential emotion processing
promotes self-preservation and survival, it can be detrimental when it conflicts with current goals and
intentions. Recent brain imaging research suggests that the brain resolves such conflicts by suppressing the
processing of emotional distractors at the perceptual level. Beyond brain imaging, event-related scalp potential
studies in humans have traced preferential emotion processing at distinct temporal stages. Comparing emotional
to neutral pictures, an early stage is indexed by the early posterior negativity (EPN) component featuring a
relative negativity over posterior sites, while a later stage is associated with the late positive potential (LPP),
manifesting as relative positivity over centro-parietal sensors. However, little is known whether emotional
response conflict is resolved at each of those processing stages, or whether conflict resolution operates selectively
at early or late stages, respectively. The present study assessed EPN and LPP to emotional distractors in an
emotional Stroop task as a function of response conflict in the previous trial. Conflict-related processing during
the Stroop task was confirmed by a behavioral conflict adaptation effect and modulation of the congruencysensitive
N450 component. Preferential processing of emotional distractors was observed for the EPN as well
as the LPP. While the EPN was completely unaffected by conflict in the previous trial, the LPP was selectively
reduced subsequent to trials featuring high response conflict. This observation provides support for a conflictbased
control of emotion processing and demonstrates that cognitive control acts selectively at specific stages
of emotion perception.