Brain electrophysiological responses to emotion nouns versus emotionless nouns

Xu Xu, Chunyan Kang, Taomei Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


As the ability to recognize and communicate emotions is crucial to mental health, it is important to understand the representation and processing of emotion concepts. This study examined brain electrophysiological responses to nouns that denote emotions (e.g., guilt and joy) in comparison to nouns that denote abstract (e.g., theme) and concrete entities (e.g., teapot) without emotional connotations. Thirty-two participants completed a lexical decision task. Behavioral responses to emotion nouns were faster and more accurate than abstract and concrete nouns. ERP data showed that emotion nouns were associated with a less pronounced N400 that peaked earlier relative to abstract and concrete nouns. Further, N400 amplitude differences between emotion and concrete nouns emerged earlier with a broad distribution, whereas the differences between emotion and abstract nouns appeared later with a fronto-central distribution. These findings demonstrate in the healthy brain processing advantages and representational distinctions of emotion concepts versus other concepts, providing a point of reference for future theoretical and clinical research on affect representations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-154
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
StatePublished - Feb 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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