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Stanković, Miloš ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9767-5634 (February 2021): A conceptual critique of brain lateralization models in emotional face perception: Toward a hemispheric functional-equivalence (HFE) model. In: International Journal of Psychophysiology, Vol. 160: pp. 57-70

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The present review proposes a novel dynamic model of brain lateralization of emotional (happy, surprised, fearful, sad, angry, and disgusted) and neutral face perception. Evidence to date suggests that emotional face perception is lateralized in the brain. At least five prominent hypotheses of the lateralization of emotional face perception have been previously proposed; the right-hemisphere hypothesis; the valence-specific hypothesis; the modified valence-specific hypothesis; the motivational hypothesis; and behavioral activation/inhibition system hypothesis. However, a growing number of recent replication studies exploring those hypotheses frequently provide inconsistent or even contradictory results. The latest neuroimaging and behavioral studies strongly demonstrate the functional capacity of both hemispheres to process emotions relatively successfully. Moreover, the flexibility of emotional brain-networks in both hemispheres is functionally high even to the extent of a possible reversed asymmetry of the left and the right hemisphere performance under altered neurophysiological and psychological conditions. The present review aims to a) provide a critical conceptual analysis of prior and current hypotheses of brain lateralization of emotional and neutral face perception; b) propose an integrative introduction of a novel hemispheric functional-equivalence (HFE) model in emotional and neutral face perception based on the evaluation of theoretical considerations, behavioral and neuroimaging studies: the brain is initially right-biased in emotional and neutral face perception by default; however, altered psychophysiological conditions (e.g., acute stress, a demanding emotional task) activate a distributed brain-network of both hemispheres toward functional equivalence that results in relatively equalized behavioral performance in emotional and neutral face perception. The proposed novel model may provide a practical tool in further experimental investigation of brain lateralization of emotional face perception.

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