Schubring, D., & Schupp, H. T. (2019). Affective picture processing: Alpha‐and lower beta‐band desynchronization reflects emotional arousal. Psychophysiology. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13386
EEG power analysis is firmly established in the cognitive domain. This contrasts with emotional stimulus processing, which thus far has yielded a complex and ambiguous pattern of findings. To further advance understanding, the present study examined emotional stimulus processing in the context of task variations and baseline activity, which included several manipulation checks as well as internal replication of findings across conditions. Participants (N = 16) viewed erotic and romantic pictures, differing in stimulus arousal. Pictures were presented briefly (120 ms), and intertrial interval was systematically varied (~1 vs. ~8 s). In one condition, participants passively viewed the pictures, in the other, they performed an active picture categorization task. The processing of erotic compared to romantic images was associated with a decrease in power in the alpha and lower beta band in posterior and anterior sensor clusters between 600–1,000 ms poststimulus. The finding was robust and confirmed across conditions, different quantifications, and independent from baseline activity. Furthermore, key findings regarding explicit task effects as well as ERPs sensitive to emotional arousal were replicated. Results are discussed with respect to the hypothesis that alpha‐ and lower beta‐band activity may reflect cortical activation associated with emotional stimulus significance.