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Emotional picture and word processing: an FMRI study on effects of stimulus complexity.

Schlochtermeier LH, Kuchinke L, Pehrs C, Urton K, Kappelhoff H, Jacobs AM - PLoS ONE (2013)

Bottom Line: The comparison of verbal and pictorial emotional stimuli often reveals a processing advantage of emotional pictures in terms of larger or more pronounced emotion effects evoked by pictorial stimuli.In this study, we examined whether this picture advantage refers to general processing differences or whether it might partly be attributed to differences in visual complexity between pictures and words.Using fMRI we then studied the neural correlates of the processing of these emotional stimuli in a valence judgment task, in which the stimulus material was controlled for differences in emotional arousal.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Cluster of Excellence Languages of Emotion, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany. l.schlochtermeier@fu-berlin.de

ABSTRACT
Neuroscientific investigations regarding aspects of emotional experiences usually focus on one stimulus modality (e.g., pictorial or verbal). Similarities and differences in the processing between the different modalities have rarely been studied directly. The comparison of verbal and pictorial emotional stimuli often reveals a processing advantage of emotional pictures in terms of larger or more pronounced emotion effects evoked by pictorial stimuli. In this study, we examined whether this picture advantage refers to general processing differences or whether it might partly be attributed to differences in visual complexity between pictures and words. We first developed a new stimulus database comprising valence and arousal ratings for more than 200 concrete objects representable in different modalities including different levels of complexity: words, phrases, pictograms, and photographs. Using fMRI we then studied the neural correlates of the processing of these emotional stimuli in a valence judgment task, in which the stimulus material was controlled for differences in emotional arousal. No superiority for the pictorial stimuli was found in terms of emotional information processing with differences between modalities being revealed mainly in perceptual processing regions. While visual complexity might partly account for previously found differences in emotional stimulus processing, the main existing processing differences are probably due to enhanced processing in modality specific perceptual regions. We would suggest that both pictures and words elicit emotional responses with no general superiority for either stimulus modality, while emotional responses to pictures are modulated by perceptual stimulus features, such as picture complexity.

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5. Simple categorical interaction effects of complexity and valence for pictorial stimuli (A) (pos photos>neut photos)>(pos pictograms>neut pictograms).Bar plot at right (A, top right) represents contrast estimates at peak voxels of the frontal poles. Simple parametric interaction effect of complexity and individual valence ratings (complexity × rating) for pictorial material (B). Plots at the right represent the interaction parameters in relation to valence ratings for (C) pictograms and photos. All activations are presented at p<0.001.Abbreviations: ACC = anterior cingulate cortex; Cb = cerebellum; Cun = cuneus; MFG = medial frontal gyrus.
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pone-0055619-g005: 5. Simple categorical interaction effects of complexity and valence for pictorial stimuli (A) (pos photos>neut photos)>(pos pictograms>neut pictograms).Bar plot at right (A, top right) represents contrast estimates at peak voxels of the frontal poles. Simple parametric interaction effect of complexity and individual valence ratings (complexity × rating) for pictorial material (B). Plots at the right represent the interaction parameters in relation to valence ratings for (C) pictograms and photos. All activations are presented at p<0.001.Abbreviations: ACC = anterior cingulate cortex; Cb = cerebellum; Cun = cuneus; MFG = medial frontal gyrus.

Mentions: The role of visual complexity for emotion processing was examined separately in verbal and pictorial stimulus material. In a first categorical analysis, stronger valence effects for the complex photos as compared to the simple pictograms were revealed in the right anterior cingulate cortex (BA 32), the left medial frontal gyrus (BA 11) as well as in the right middle occipital gyrus (BA 18) and the cuneus. The beta values, which are depicted exemplarily for the anterior cingulate cortex (Figure 5A, right), show an increase in activation from neutral to positive for the photos and a decrease for the pictograms. For verbal material no significant differences in valence effects were observed between words and phrases. In the subsequent parametric analysis, for the interaction of individual valence ratings and specific stimulus complexity, significant effects were found for the pictorial material only in the cerebellum. For the verbal material, again, no significant activation differences were observed. A visual inspection of the interaction parameters for these contrasts revealed that, for the pictorial stimuli, pictograms and photos overlap regarding high interaction parameter values (Table 3, Figure 5B, right). This indicates that the interaction effect is triggered by complex photos, but also by complex pictograms.


Emotional picture and word processing: an FMRI study on effects of stimulus complexity.

Schlochtermeier LH, Kuchinke L, Pehrs C, Urton K, Kappelhoff H, Jacobs AM - PLoS ONE (2013)

5. Simple categorical interaction effects of complexity and valence for pictorial stimuli (A) (pos photos>neut photos)>(pos pictograms>neut pictograms).Bar plot at right (A, top right) represents contrast estimates at peak voxels of the frontal poles. Simple parametric interaction effect of complexity and individual valence ratings (complexity × rating) for pictorial material (B). Plots at the right represent the interaction parameters in relation to valence ratings for (C) pictograms and photos. All activations are presented at p<0.001.Abbreviations: ACC = anterior cingulate cortex; Cb = cerebellum; Cun = cuneus; MFG = medial frontal gyrus.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3569458&req=5

pone-0055619-g005: 5. Simple categorical interaction effects of complexity and valence for pictorial stimuli (A) (pos photos>neut photos)>(pos pictograms>neut pictograms).Bar plot at right (A, top right) represents contrast estimates at peak voxels of the frontal poles. Simple parametric interaction effect of complexity and individual valence ratings (complexity × rating) for pictorial material (B). Plots at the right represent the interaction parameters in relation to valence ratings for (C) pictograms and photos. All activations are presented at p<0.001.Abbreviations: ACC = anterior cingulate cortex; Cb = cerebellum; Cun = cuneus; MFG = medial frontal gyrus.
Mentions: The role of visual complexity for emotion processing was examined separately in verbal and pictorial stimulus material. In a first categorical analysis, stronger valence effects for the complex photos as compared to the simple pictograms were revealed in the right anterior cingulate cortex (BA 32), the left medial frontal gyrus (BA 11) as well as in the right middle occipital gyrus (BA 18) and the cuneus. The beta values, which are depicted exemplarily for the anterior cingulate cortex (Figure 5A, right), show an increase in activation from neutral to positive for the photos and a decrease for the pictograms. For verbal material no significant differences in valence effects were observed between words and phrases. In the subsequent parametric analysis, for the interaction of individual valence ratings and specific stimulus complexity, significant effects were found for the pictorial material only in the cerebellum. For the verbal material, again, no significant activation differences were observed. A visual inspection of the interaction parameters for these contrasts revealed that, for the pictorial stimuli, pictograms and photos overlap regarding high interaction parameter values (Table 3, Figure 5B, right). This indicates that the interaction effect is triggered by complex photos, but also by complex pictograms.

Bottom Line: The comparison of verbal and pictorial emotional stimuli often reveals a processing advantage of emotional pictures in terms of larger or more pronounced emotion effects evoked by pictorial stimuli.In this study, we examined whether this picture advantage refers to general processing differences or whether it might partly be attributed to differences in visual complexity between pictures and words.Using fMRI we then studied the neural correlates of the processing of these emotional stimuli in a valence judgment task, in which the stimulus material was controlled for differences in emotional arousal.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Cluster of Excellence Languages of Emotion, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany. l.schlochtermeier@fu-berlin.de

ABSTRACT
Neuroscientific investigations regarding aspects of emotional experiences usually focus on one stimulus modality (e.g., pictorial or verbal). Similarities and differences in the processing between the different modalities have rarely been studied directly. The comparison of verbal and pictorial emotional stimuli often reveals a processing advantage of emotional pictures in terms of larger or more pronounced emotion effects evoked by pictorial stimuli. In this study, we examined whether this picture advantage refers to general processing differences or whether it might partly be attributed to differences in visual complexity between pictures and words. We first developed a new stimulus database comprising valence and arousal ratings for more than 200 concrete objects representable in different modalities including different levels of complexity: words, phrases, pictograms, and photographs. Using fMRI we then studied the neural correlates of the processing of these emotional stimuli in a valence judgment task, in which the stimulus material was controlled for differences in emotional arousal. No superiority for the pictorial stimuli was found in terms of emotional information processing with differences between modalities being revealed mainly in perceptual processing regions. While visual complexity might partly account for previously found differences in emotional stimulus processing, the main existing processing differences are probably due to enhanced processing in modality specific perceptual regions. We would suggest that both pictures and words elicit emotional responses with no general superiority for either stimulus modality, while emotional responses to pictures are modulated by perceptual stimulus features, such as picture complexity.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus