October 20, 2020

Investigating real-life emotions in romantic couples: a mobile EEG study

The neural basis of emotional processing has been largely investigated in constrained spatial environments such as stationary EEGs or fMRI scanners using highly artificial stimuli like standardized pictures depicting emotional scenes. Typically, such standardized experiments have low ecological validity and it remains unclear whether their results reflect neuronal processing in real-life affective situations at all. Critically, emotional situations do not only encompass the perception of emotions, but also behavioral components associated with them. In this study, we aimed to investigate real-life emotions by recording couples in their homes using mobile EEG technology during embracing, kissing and emotional speech. We focused on asymmetries in affective processing as emotions have been demonstrated to be strongly lateralized in the brain. We found higher alpha and beta power asymmetry during kissing and embracing on frontal electrodes during emotional kisses and speech compared to a neutral control condition indicative of stronger left-hemispheric activation. In contrast, we found lower alpha power asymmetry at parieto-occipital electrode sites in the emotional compared to the neutral condition indicative of stronger right-hemispheric activation. Our findings are in line with models of emotional lateralization that postulate a valence-specific processing over frontal cortices and right-hemispheric dominance in emotional processing in parieto-occipital regions. Overall, we could thus support theories of emotional asymmetries which suggest that affective processing is not uniformly lateralized across the brain using a highly ecologically valid paradigm.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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