Neurocognitive assessment of emotional context sensitivity

Sarah Myruski, George A. Bonanno, Olga Gulyayeva, Laura J. Egan, Tracy A. Dennis-Tiwary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Sensitivity to emotional context is an emerging construct for characterizing adaptive or maladaptive emotion regulation, but few measurement approaches exist. The current study combined behavioral and neurocognitive measures to assess context sensitivity in relation to self-report measures of adaptive emotional flexibility and well-being. Sixty-six adults completed an emotional go/no-go task using happy, fearful, and neutral faces as go and no-go cues, while EEG was recorded to generate event-related potentials (ERPs) reflecting attentional selection and discrimination (N170) and cognitive control (N2). Context sensitivity was measured as the degree of emotional facilitation or disruption in the go/no-go task and magnitude of ERP response to emotion cues. Participants self-reported on emotional flexibility, anxiety, and depression. Overall participants evidenced emotional context sensitivity, such that when happy faces were go stimuli, accuracy improved (greater behavioral facilitation), whereas when fearful faces were no-go stimuli, errors increased (disrupted behavioral inhibition). These indices predicted emotional flexibility and well-being: Greater behavioral facilitation following happy cues was associated with lower depression and anxiety, whereas greater disruption in behavioral inhibition following fearful cues was associated with lower flexibility. ERP indices of context sensitivity revealed additional associations: Greater N2 to fear go cues was associated with less anxiety and depression, and greater N2 and N170 to happy and fear no-go cues, respectively, were associated with greater emotional flexibility and well-being. Results suggest that pleasant and unpleasant emotions selectively enhance and disrupt components of context sensitivity, and that behavioral and ERP indices of context sensitivity predict flexibility and well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1058-1071
Number of pages14
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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