Although food and affective pictures share similar emotional and motivational characteristics, the relationship between the neuronal responses to these stimuli is unclear. Particularly, it is not known whether perceiving and imagining food and affective stimuli elicit similar event-related potential (ERP) patterns. In this study, two ERP correlates, the early posterior negativity (EPN) and the late positive potential (LPP) for perceived and imagined emotional and food photographs were investigated. Thirteen healthy volunteers were exposed to a set of food photos, as well as unpleasant, pleasant, and neutral photos from the International Affective Picture System. In each trial, participants were first asked to view a photo (perception condition), and then to create a visual mental image of it and to rate its vividness (imagery condition). The results showed that during perception, brain regions corresponding to sensorimotor and parietal motivational (defensive and appetitive) systems were activated to different extents, producing a graded pattern of EPN and LPP responses specific to the photo content — more prominent for unpleasant than pleasant and food content. Also, an EPN signature occurred in both conditions for unpleasant content, suggesting that, compared to food or pleasant content, unpleasant content may be attended to more intensely during perception and may be represented more distinctly during imagery. Finally, compared to LLP activation during perception, as well as imagery and perception of all other content, LPP activation was significantly reduced during imagery of unpleasant photos, suggesting inhibition of unwanted memories. Results are framed within a neurocognitive working model of embodied emotions.

Additional Metadata
Keywords embodiment, emotion, EPN, ERP, food, International Affective Picture System, LPP, mental imagery, perception, vividness
Persistent URL
Journal Neuroscience Bulletin
Marmolejo-Ramos, F. (Fernando), Hellemans, K, Comeau, A. (Amy), Heenan, A. (Adam), Faulkner, A. (Andrew), Abizaid, A, & D’Angiulli, A. (Amedeo). (2015). Event-related potential signatures of perceived and imagined emotional and food real-life photos. Neuroscience Bulletin, 31(3), 317–330. doi:10.1007/s12264-014-1520-6