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Enough of the endless parade of talking heads, can we skip the campaign and go directly to the vote? Kevin Howard says the lawsuit against his wife's lover — a family friend — is about respecting the sanctity of a marriage. This is not likely, either.
A third and a more appealing explanation concerns the role of affective arousal in modulating the amplitude of the N response. Our measurements of autonomic responses and self-ratings support for this hypothesis: both measures showed higher arousal to nude bodies than to other stimulus categories, and the overall mean self-reported arousal scores to different stimulus categories were also correlated with the N amplitudes. This accords with the extensive literature showing enhanced ERP responses to affectively arousing stimuli for a review, see .
A handful of previous studies has found affective modulation of early visual ERP responses such as N1, e. We replicate these findings and show that particularly the face- and body-sensitive occipitotemporal N response shows significant sensitivity to a very specific affective signal, namely, the visibility of sex-related human body features. In more general sense the present findings suggest that the face- and body-sensitive N response can be greatly modulated by the affective and motivational significance of the stimulus.
Previous studies have already shown that the N amplitude is enhanced for emotionally arousing faces such as those with fearful rather than neutral facial expressions  ,  , faces displaying gaze contact rather than gaze aversion eye contact;  ,  , and familiar rather than unfamiliar faces . Interestingly, in previous studies investigating the effects of expressive body postures on early visual processing, N has not been found to be modulated by body expressions  , .
However, in one study the VPP vertex positive potential , a positive counter-part of N recorded from the top of the head, was observed to be enhanced to fearful bodies . One possible way to reconcile these seemingly discrepant results is that nude bodies are obviously much stronger and salient affective signals than, for example, fearful body postures.
Accordingly, it is understandable that nude bodies but not bodily expressions trigger enhanced N amplitudes. Taken together, our results suggest that the N component reflects two different types of processes: engagement of visual processing systems specialized for face and body perception, as well as affective-motivational processes tracking emotional arousal level. Configural versus featural processing of visual stimuli has typically been investigated by rotating the stimuli upside down. This manipulation disrupts configural coding and is known to interfere specifically with the perception of faces, bodies, and target objects of expertise.
As inversion also increases the latency and sometimes also the amplitude of N to these stimuli  ,  ,  , results from such studies convincingly suggest that N reflects visual processing of faces and bodies, and possibly also of other types of configurationally represented visual information. In line with this, we found larger N amplitudes for faces vs. Accordingly, these differences must be due to an arousal-independent mechanism, such as differential engagement of the category-selective visual processing systems, or those subserving, for example, configural processing of visual information.
However, the present data highlight that inputs from brain regions encoding of salient and arousing visual stimuli also contribute significantly to the N wave. There is abundant evidence implicating the amygdala as one of the core regions involved in early encoding emotional features from sensory input  ,  including sexual cues . It has been proposed  ,  that amygdala may accomplish some forms of affective evaluation even before visual information is transmitted to the occipitotemporal areas involved in object recognition.
But recently it has been suggested that the cortex may have a more important role in processing of affective information than previously assumed. Such connections would allow affective modulation of short-latency brain responses without a need to rely on subcortical processing. Although we have emphasized the role of affective arousal in generating the enhanced N response to nude bodies, there may be other alternatives for explaining the present results. One possibility relates to attentional top-down effects on the N responses. Thus, it is possible that more attention was allocated on nude vs.
As the effects of affective arousal and attention are tightly intertwined, differentiating between these effects will be an important issue for future studies. Second, based on our results we can not strictly dissociate the contribution of body nudity per se and the contribution of affective arousal on enhanced N responses. Disentangling specifically the contribution of affective arousal would have required a control stimulus category not showing body nudity, but associated with positive valence and, importantly, eliciting high arousal comparable to that elicited by nude bodies.
However, finding such a stimulus category is not straightforward. Another possibility would be replicating the present experiment with participants such as those with hypoactive sexual disorder, for whom nude bodies are not exceedingly arousing. These patients have, for example, been shown to experience lower level of sexual arousal during viewing of erotic films as compared to controls .
Finally, the N responses to a face have been shown to decrease when there is another face in the visual field, a finding interpreted to result from competition for recruiting a common population of neurons  , . Against this finding it is possible that the enhanced N response for naked vs. In order to test this hypothesis, future studies could investigate, for example, whether presentation of mere clothes next to a nude body results in smaller N responses compared to those to the presentation of nude bodies only.
An important and yet open question is whether N elicited by faces vs. In previous studies comparing the N response between clothed bodies and faces, some researchers have reported similar scalp topography for faces and bodies  , whereas others have shown that the potential distribution and source localization differ between responses to bodies and faces  , .
The N topography of the present study provided evidence for separate sources. However, in the present study the sensor density of 21 electrodes was too low to allow accurate source localization. This question must be addressed in future studies employing high-density electrode networks or magnetoencephalography. It will be of particular interest be to ascertain whether the processing of nude bodies engages only the same cortical sources as the processing of clothed bodies and faces, or whether the N response enhancement to nude bodies reflects activation of additional cortical-subcortical generators.
Obviously, another great challenge for future research will be to reveal the visual features that make nude human bodies affectively arousing and subject to enhanced visual processing. We conclude that the human brain is tuned to detect sexual signals from human bodies rapidly, and that this categorization process is reflected in the face- and body-sensitive N component of the ERP wave. Furthermore, we argue that affective arousal can provide a significant contributory factor in generating the N response, providing further support for the models of rapid modulation of visual responses by emotional information .
N amplitudes measured from all posterior recording channels in Experiment 1. Statistical comparisons for the scalp topographies of the mean voltage amplitudes between face vs. The statistical comparisons are plotted in five consecutive ms time windows starting at ms post-stimulus. N amplitudes to intact versions of the stimuli measured from all posterior recording channels in Experiment 2.
We thank Pekka Santtila for providing stimulus materials, Ilkka Kirjavainen for his help with data acquisition, and our volunteers for making this study possible. Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. Funding: This work was supported by the Academy of Finland grants to J.
H and to L. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. PLoS One. Published online Nov Jari K. Hans P. Op de Beeck, Editor. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Received Feb 17; Accepted Aug Copyright Hietanen et al.
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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are properly credited. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Figure S2: Statistical comparisons for the scalp topographies of the mean voltage amplitudes between face vs.
Figure S3: N amplitudes to intact versions of the stimuli measured from all posterior recording channels in Experiment 2. Figure S4: Statistical comparisons for the scalp topographies of the mean voltage amplitudes between face vs. Abstract Recent event-related potential studies have shown that the occipitotemporal N component - best known for its sensitivity to faces - is also sensitive to perception of human bodies.
Introduction Without any doubt, other human beings are the most important visual objects in our environment. Experiment 1 In Experiment 1 , color pictures of cars, faces, nude bodies, and bodies in swimsuits were presented as stimuli see Fig. Open in a separate window. Figure 1.
Illustration of the stimuli used in Experiments 1 and 2. Stimuli Color pictures of faces, nude bodies, bodies wearing swimsuits, and cars were used as stimuli see Fig. Procedure Participants were seated comfortably in an armchair in front of a monitor. Results N amplitude Figure 2 shows ERPs from two occipito-temporal T5, T6 channels and scalp topographies of the mean voltage amplitudes for different stimulus types averaged across stimulus sex. Figure 2. Brain responses to different stimuli in Experiment 1.
Figure 3. Discussion Our main finding was that clothing modulated the N response to bodies: N amplitude was larger to nude bodies than to the bodies wearing swimsuits, while all body stimuli elicited larger N responses than control objects cars. Experiment 2 Experiment 2 had three major aims.
Stimuli Color pictures of faces, nude bodies, clothed bodies, and cars were used as stimuli see illustrations in Fig. Results N amplitude Again, all stimulus categories elicited a prominent N response Fig. Figure 4. Brain responses to different stimuli in Experiment 2. Figure 5. Figure 6. The N amplitude modulation as a function of the degree of clothing. SCR and subjective arousal and valence evaluations Skin conductance responses Fig. Figure 7. Arousal and valence responses.
Discussion In Experiment 2 we replicated our findings on larger N amplitudes to nude vs. Discussion Our ERP data show for the first time that early visual processing of nude over clothed bodies is enhanced. Conclusions We conclude that the human brain is tuned to detect sexual signals from human bodies rapidly, and that this categorization process is reflected in the face- and body-sensitive N component of the ERP wave.
Supporting Information Figure S1 N amplitudes measured from all posterior recording channels in Experiment 1. TIF Click here for additional data file. Figure S2 Statistical comparisons for the scalp topographies of the mean voltage amplitudes between face vs. JPG Click here for additional data file. Figure S3 N amplitudes to intact versions of the stimuli measured from all posterior recording channels in Experiment 2.
Figure S4 Statistical comparisons for the scalp topographies of the mean voltage amplitudes between face vs. Acknowledgments We thank Pekka Santtila for providing stimulus materials, Ilkka Kirjavainen for his help with data acquisition, and our volunteers for making this study possible. Footnotes Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. References 1.
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