Anterior EEG Asymmetries and Opponent Process Theory

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The opponent process theory of emotion [Solomon, R.L., and Corbit, J.D. (1974). An opponent-process theory of motivation: I. Temporal dynamics of affect. Psychological Review, 81, 119-143.] predicts a temporary reversal of emotional valence during the recovery from emotional stimulation. We hypothesized that this affective contrast would be apparent in asymmetrical activity patterns in the frontal lobes, and would be more apparent for left frontally active individuals. The present study tested this prediction by examining EEG asymmetries during and after blocked presentations of aversive pictures selected from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). 12 neutral images, 12 aversive images, and 24 neutral images were presented in blocks. Participants who were right frontally active at baseline did not show changes in EEG asymmetry while viewing aversive slides or after cessation. Participants left frontally active at baseline, however, exhibited greater relative left frontal activity after aversive stimulation than before stimulation. Asymmetrical activity patterns in the frontal lobes may relate to affect regulatory processes, including contrasting opponent after-reactions to aversive stimuli.