Psychophysiological correlates of face processing in social phobia

  • Kolassa I
  • Miltner W
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Social phobia has been associated with abnormal processing of angry faces, which directly signal disapproval-a situation that social phobics fear. This study investigated the electrophysiological correlates of emotional face processing in socially phobic and non-phobic individuals. Subjects identified either the gender (modified emotional Stroop task) or the expression of angry, happy, or neutral faces. Social phobics showed no deviations from controls in reaction times, heart rates, P1, or P2 amplitudes in response to angry faces, although elevated FSS scores were associated with higher P1 amplitudes in social phobic persons. In addition, social phobic persons showed enhanced right temporo-parietal N170 amplitudes in response to angry faces in the emotion identification task. Furthermore, higher scores on the Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory (SPAI) were associated as a trend with larger N170 amplitudes in response to angry faces in the emotion identification task. Thus, the present results suggest that social phobics show abnormalities in the early visual processing of angry faces, as reflected by the enhanced right-hemispheric N170 when the emotion of the angry face was the focus of attention, while behavioral responses and heart rates showed no evidence for preferred processing of angry facial expressions. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Emotional Stroop
  • Event-related potentials (ERPs)
  • Face processing
  • Heart rate
  • Social phobia

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  • Iris Tatjana Kolassa

  • Wolfgang H.R. Miltner

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