Transient interference of right hemisphere function due to automatic emotional processing.


We examined the effects of emotional stimuli on right and left hemisphere detection performance in a hemifield visual discrimination task. A group of 18 healthy subjects were asked to discriminate between upright and inverted triangles (target). Targets were randomly presented in the left or right visual hemifield (150 ms target duration). A brief emotional picture (pleasant or unpleasant; 150 ms stimulus duration) or neutral picture selected from the International Affective Picture System was randomly presented either in the same (47%) or the opposite (47%) spatial location to the subsequent target. Emotional or neutral stimuli offset 150 ms prior to the subsequent target. Subjects were instructed to ignore the pictures and respond to the targets as quickly and accurately as possible. Independent of field of presentation, emotional stimuli prolonged reaction times (PB 0.01) to LVF targets, with unpleasant stimuli showing a greater effect than pleasant stimuli. The current study shows that brief emotional stimuli selectively impair right hemispheric visual discrimination capacity. The findings suggest automatic processing of emotional stimuli captures right hemispheric processing resources and transiently interferes with other right hemispheric functions.