Early detection and late cognitive control of emotional distraction by the prefrontal cortex
Área/s de conocimientoPsicología
Materia/s Unesco61 Psicología
Unpleasant emotional distraction can impair the retention of non-emotional information in working memory (WM). Research links the prefrontal cortex with the successful control of such biologically relevant distractors, although the temporal changes in this brain mechanism remain unexplored. We use magnetoencephalography to investigate the temporal dynamics of the cognitive control of both unpleasant and pleasant distraction, in the millisecond (ms) scale. Behavioral results demonstrate that pleasant events do not affect WM maintenance more than neutral ones. Neuroimaging results show that prefrontal cortices are recruited for the rapid detection of emotional distraction, at early latencies of the processing (70-130 ms). Later in the processing (360-450 ms), the dorsolateral, the medial and the orbital sections of the prefrontal cortex mediate the effective control of emotional distraction. In accordance with the behavioral performance, pleasant distractors do not require higher prefrontal activity than neutral ones. These findings extend our knowledge about the brain mechanisms of coping with emotional distraction in WM. In particular, they show for the first time that overriding the attentional capture triggered by emotional distractors, while maintaining taskrelevant elements in mind, is based on the early detection of such linked-to-survival information and on its later cognitive control by the prefrontal cortex.