We investigated to what extent emotional connotation influences cortical potentials during reading. To this end, event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded during reading of high arousal pleasant and unpleasant and low arousal neutral adjectives that were presented at rates of 1 Hz and 3 Hz. Enhanced processing of both pleasant and unpleasant emotional compared to neutral adjectives was first reflected in an amplified early posterior negativity (EPN) starting from 200 ms after word onset. Later potentials (>300 ms), as analyzed in the slower 1 Hz condition, revealed facilitated processing selectively for pleasant adjectives that were associated with a reduced N400 and an enhanced late positive potential (LPP). Pleasant adjectives were also better remembered in an incidental memory test. Thus, emotionally relevant adjectives are processed spontaneously and selectively. Initially, emotional arousal drives attention capture (EPN). Healthy subjects may have a natural bias toward pleasant information facilitating late ERPs (N400, LPP) to pleasant adjectives as well as their superior recall.
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