Despite extensive research, the differential roles of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in implicit and explicit facial emotion processing remain elusive. Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a neuroimaging technique that can measure changes in both oxyhemoglobin (HbO) and deoxyhemoglobin (HbR) concentrations. Currently, how HbO and HbR change during facial emotion processing remains unclear. Here, fNIRS was used to examine and compare PFC activation during implicit and explicit facial emotion processing. Forty young adults performed a facial-matching task that required either emotion discrimination (explicit task) or age discrimination (implicit task), and the activation of their PFCs was measured by fNIRS. Participants attempted the task on two occasions to determine whether their activation patterns were maintained over time. The PFC displayed increases in HbO and/or decreases in HbR during the implicit and explicit facial emotion tasks. Importantly, there were significantly greater changes in PFC HbO during the explicit task, whereas no significant difference in HbR changes between conditions was found. Between sessions, HbO changes were reduced across tasks, but the difference in HbO changes between the implicit and explicit tasks remained unchanged. The test-retest reliability of the behavioral measures was excellent, whereas that of fNIRS measures was mostly poor to fair. Thus, the PFC plays a specific role in recognizing facial expressions, and its differential involvement in implicit and explicit facial emotion processing can be consistently captured at the group level by changes in HbO. This study demonstrates the potential of fNIRS for elucidating the neural mechanisms underlying facial emotion recognition. Copyright © 2023 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
CitationYeung, M. K. (2023). The prefrontal cortex is differentially involved in implicit and explicit facial emotion processing: An fNIRS study. Biological Psychology, 181, Article 108619. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2023.108619
- Facial expression
- Prefrontal cortex