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Stanković, Miloš ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9767-5634 and Nešić, Milkica ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1197-1457 (November 2020): Functional brain asymmetry for emotions: psychological stress-induced reversed hemispheric asymmetry in emotional face perception. In: Experimental Brain Research, Vol. 238, No. 11: pp. 2641-2651

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Empirical evidence has demonstrated functional (mostly right-biased) brain asymmetry for emotion perception, whereas recent studies indicate that acute stress may modulate left and/or right hemisphere activation. However, it is still unknown whether emotion perception can be influenced by stress-induced hemispheric activation since behavioral studies report inconsistent or even contradictory results. We sought to reevaluate this gap. Eighty-eight healthy Caucasian university students participated in the study. In half of the randomly selected participants, acute psychological stress was induced by displaying a brief stressful movie clip (the stress condition), whereas the other half were shown a neutral movie clip (the non-stress condition). Prior to (the baseline) and following the movie clip display an emotion perception task was applied by presenting an emotional (happy, surprised, fearful, sad, angry, or disgusted) or neutral face to the left or right visual field. We found a more accurate perception of emotional and neutral faces presented to the LVF (the right hemisphere) in the baseline. However, we revealed that after watching a neutral movie clip, behavioral performance in emotional and neutral face perception accuracy became relatively equalized for both visual fields, whereas after watching a stressful movie clip, the RVF (the left hemisphere) even became dominant in emotional face perception. We propose a novel hemispheric functional-equivalence model: the brain is initially right-biased in emotional and neutral face perception by default; however, psychophysiological activation of a distributed brain-network due to watching neutral movie clips redistributes hemispheric performance toward relative equivalence. Moreover, even reversed hemispheric asymmetry may occur.

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