The late positive potential: a neural marker of the regulation of emotion-based approach-avoidance actions?

Biological Psychology
Susan BamfordEdmund J S Sonuga-Barke


The ability to regulate our emotional responses is crucial to effective functioning in daily life. Whilst there has been extensive study of the brain potentials related to valenced stimuli, the neural basis of the ability to regulate actions elicited by these remains to be clarified. To address this, 40 volunteers undertook an approach-avoidance paradigm. In the congruent condition, participants approached pleasant and avoided unpleasant stimuli. In the incongruent condition, the opposite was the case, requiring the regulation of natural emotional response tendencies. Both behavioural and electrophysiological indices of emotional regulation were recorded. Congruency effects were observed at both the behavioural and electrophysiological level. Reaction times were faster and the LPP larger, when performing emotionally congruous relative to incongruous actions. Moreover, neural and behavioural effects were correlated. The current results suggest that the LPP congruency effect can be considered a neural marker of individual differences in emotion-driven action tendencies. We discuss whether this reflects emotion regulation, effort allocation, or correct mapping of stimulus response tendencies.


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