Frontal electroencephalographic correlates of individual differences in emotion expression in infants: a brain systems perspective on emotion.
Emotion expressions can be characterized by both the type of emotion displayed and the intensity with which the emotion is expressed. Individual differences in these two aspects of emotion appear to vary independently and may perhaps account for distinct dimensions of temperament, personality, and vulnerability to psychopathology. We reviewed several sets of data gathered in our laboratory that indicate that these two dimensions of emotion expression are associated with distinct and independent patterns of frontal EEG activity in infants. Specifically, whereas the type of emotion expression was found to be associated with asymmetries in frontal EEG activity, the intensity of emotion expression was found to be associated with generalized activation of both the right and the left frontal regions. Moreover, we reviewed and provided evidence that measures of asymmetrical frontal activity are better predictors of individual differences in the tendency to express certain emotions, such as distress and sadness, whereas measures of generalized frontal activity are better predictors of individual differences in emotional reactivity and emotion intensity. The neuroanatomical bases of emotion were discussed with special reference to the role of the frontal lobe in emotion regulation. It was hypothesized that the frontal activation asymmetries that have been found to accompany emotion expressions reflect specific regulation strategies. The left frontal region is specialized for regulation strategies involving action schemes that serve to maintain continuity and stability of the organism-environment relation and of ongoing motor schemes, such as those involved in language and the expression of happiness and interest. In contrast, the right frontal region appears to be specialized for regulation strategies that involve processing novel stimuli that disrupt ongoing activity, such as might occur during the expression of fear, disgust, and distress. Furthermore, it was proposed that individual differences in patterns of frontal EEG asymmetries during emotion may be related to socialization influences rather than solely innate factors. It was speculated that the pattern of generalized frontal lobe activation that accompanies the experience of intense emotions may reflect, in part, the relatively diffuse influence of subcortical structures on the cortex and may serve to increase the infant's general readiness to receive and respond to significant external stimuli.
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