Cortical responses to consciousness of schematic emotional facial expressions: a high-resolution EEG study

Claudio Babiloni, Fabrizio Vecchio, Paola Buffo, Maura Buttiglione, Giuseppe Cibelli, Paolo Maria Rossini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)


Is conscious perception of emotional face expression related to enhanced cortical responses? Electroencephalographic data (112 channels) were recorded in 15 normal adults during the presentation of cue stimuli with neutral, happy or sad schematic faces (duration: "threshold time" inducing about 50% of correct recognitions), masking stimuli (2 s), and go stimuli with happy or sad schematic faces (0.5 s). The subjects clicked left (right) mouse button in response to go stimuli with happy (sad) faces. After the response, they said "seen" or "not seen" with reference to previous cue stimulus. Electroencephalographic data formed visual event-related potentials (ERPs). Cortical sources of ERPs were estimated by LORETA software. Reaction time to go stimuli was generally shorter during "seen" than "not seen" trials, possibly due to covert attention and awareness. The cue stimuli evoked four ERP components (posterior N100, N170, P200, and P300), which had similar peak latency in the "not seen" and "seen" ERPs. Only N170 amplitude showed differences in amplitude in the "seen" versus "not seen" ERPs. Compared to the "not seen" ERPs, the "seen" ones showed prefrontal, premotor, and posterior parietal sources of N170 higher in amplitude with the sad cue stimuli and lower in amplitude with the neutral and happy cue stimuli. These results suggest that nonconscious and conscious processing of schematic emotional facial expressions shares a similar temporal evolution of cortical activity, and conscious processing induces an early enhancement of bilateral cortical activity for the schematic sad facial expressions (N170).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1556-1569
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex
  • Consciousness
  • Electroencephalography
  • Emotions
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex
  • Young Adult


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