The early posterior negativity (EPN) reflects early selective visual processing of emotionally significant information. This study explored the association between fear of spiders and the EPN for spider pictures. Fifty women completed a Spider Phobia Questionnaire and watched the random rapid serial presentation of 600 neutral, 600 negatively valenced emotional, and 600 spider pictures (three pictures per second). The EPN was scored as the mean activity in the 225-300-ms time window at lateral occipital electrodes. Participants with higher scores on the phobia questionnaire showed larger (i.e. more negative) EPN amplitudes in response to spider pictures. The results suggest that the attentional capture of spider-related stimuli is an automatic response, which is modulated by the extent of spider fear.

Automatic anxiety, Early posterior negativity, Emotion, Phylogenetic fear, Spider phobia, adolescent, adult, analysis of variance, animal, article, attention, brain, clinical article, disease association, electroencephalogram, electroencephalography, electrooculography, event related potential, evoked response, fear, female, human, normal human, pathophysiology, phobia, photostimulation, phylogeny, physiology, priority journal, psychologic assessment, psychologic test, psychological model, psychometry, questionnaire, research subject, self evaluation, spider, vision,
NeuroReport: for rapid communication of neuroscience research
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

van Strien, J.W, Franken, I.H.A, & Huijding, J. (2009). Phobic spider fear is associated with enhanced attentional capture by spider pictures: A rapid serial presentation event-related potential study. NeuroReport: for rapid communication of neuroscience research, 20(4), 445–449. doi:10.1097/WNR.0b013e3283262e26