Aversive emotional interference impacts behavior and prefronto-striatal activity during increasing attentional control

Apostolos Papazacharias, Paolo Taurisano, Leonardo Fazio, Barbara Gelao, Annabella Di Giorgio, Luciana Lo Bianco, Tiziana Quarto, Marina Mancini, Annamaria Porcelli, Raffaella Romano, Grazia Caforio, Orlando Todarello, Teresa Popolizio, Giuseppe Blasi, Alessandro Bertolino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Earlier studies have demonstrated that emotional stimulation modulates attentional processing during goal-directed behavior and related activity of a brain network including the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and the caudate nucleus. However, it is not clear how emotional interference modulates behavior and brain physiology during variation in attentional control, a relevant question for everyday life situations in which both emotional stimuli and cognitive load vary. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of negative emotions on behavior and activity in IFG and caudate nucleus during increasing levels of attentional control. Twenty two healthy subjects underwent event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing a task in which neutral or fearful facial expressions were displayed before stimuli eliciting increasing levels of attentional control processing. Results indicated slower reaction time (RT) and greater right IFG activity when fearful compared with neutral facial expressions preceded the low level of attentional control. On the other hand, fearful facial expressions preceding the intermediate level of attentional control elicited faster behavioral responses and greater activity in the right and left sides of the caudate. Finally, correlation analysis indicated a relationship between behavioral correlates of attentional control after emotional interference and right IFG activity. All together, these results suggest that the impact of negative emotions on attentional processing is differentially elicited at the behavioral and physiological levels as a function of cognitive load.

Original languageEnglish
Article number97
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue numberAPR
Publication statusPublished - Apr 21 2015


  • Attentional control
  • Caudate nucleus
  • Emotion
  • fMRI
  • Inferior frontal gyrus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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