Recent behavioral and electrocortical studies have found that shy and socially anxious adults are hypersensitive to the processing of negative and ambiguous facial emotions. We attempted to extend these findings by examining the neural correlates of affective face processing in shy adults using an event-related fMRI design. We presented pairs of faces that varied in affective valence and intensity. The faces were morphed to alter the degree of intensity of the emotional expressive faces. Twenty-four (12 shy and 12 non-shy) young adult participants then made same/different judgments to these faces while in an MR scanner. We found that shy adults exhibited greater neural activation across a distinct range of brain regions to pairs of faces expressing negative emotions, moderate levels of emotional intensity, and emotional faces that were incongruent with one another. In contrast, non-shy individuals exhibited greater neural activation across a distinct range of brain regions to pairs of faces expressing positive emotions, low levels of emotional intensity, and emotional faces that were congruent with one another. Findings suggest that there are differences in neural responses between shy and non-shy adults when viewing affective faces that vary in valence, intensity, and discrepancy.
Psychology & Neuroscience
Tathum, E., Schmidt, L.A., Beaton, A.E., Shulkin, J., & Hall, G.B. (2013) Processing of affective faces varying in valence and intensity in shy adults: an event-related fMRI study. Psychology and Neuroscience, 6, 57-65.