Electrocortical and ocular indices of attention to fearful and neutral faces presented under high and low working memory load. Academic Article uri icon


  • Working memory load reduces the late positive potential (LPP), consistent with the notion that functional activation of the DLPFC attenuates neural indices of sustained attention. Visual attention also modulates the LPP. In the present study, we sought to determine whether working memory load might exert its influence on ERPs by reducing fixations to arousing picture regions. We simultaneously recorded eye-tracking and EEG while participants performed a working memory task interspersed with the presentation of task-irrelevant fearful and neutral faces. As expected, fearful compared to neutral faces elicited larger N170 and LPP amplitudes; in addition, working memory load reduced the N170 and the LPP. Participants made more fixations to arousing regions of neutral faces and faces presented under high working memory load. Therefore, working memory load did not induce avoidance of arousing picture regions and visual attention cannot explain load effects on the N170 and LPP.

published proceedings

  • Biol Psychol

author list (cited authors)

  • MacNamara, A., Schmidt, J., Zelinsky, G. J., & Hajcak, G

citation count

  • 26

complete list of authors

  • MacNamara, Annmarie||Schmidt, Joseph||Zelinsky, Gregory J||Hajcak, Greg

publication date

  • August 2012