Assessing Fear Responses with Event-Related Potential and Reaction Time in a Go-NoGo Task

Taylor Simmons, Brianna Newport


Recent research indicates that mild traumatic brain injury patients respond faster to threat- than to non-threat stimuli and have impaired emotional attention. Our student colleague also found faster responses to threat-related stimuli among football players than in controls. Employing a Go-NoGo task similar to that employed in these prior studies, we examined the relationship between reaction times (RT), brain event-related potentials (ERPs), and emotion ratings for spider stimuli. After viewing a clip from the movie Arachnophobia, twenty participants (12 male, 8 female) performed the Go-NoGo task in 4 blocks of 64 trials each, while we recorded 32 channels of electroencephalographic data. Each block assigned a different stimulus property as the Go signal -- a spider or a flower figure, or a green or red background. Using ERPLAB (plugin for EEGLAB software), we measured the amplitude between N2-P3 ERP peaks. We found a moderate relationship for spider Go signals between peak Pz amplitude (midline parietal) and participants’ post-experiment fear rating of the spider clip (r = -0.41, p < 0.07). The same relationship held true among flower (r = -0.52, p < 0.02) and green Go signals (r = -0.48, p < 0.04). For correct responses, self-reported spider fear on a pre-experiment questionnaire was positively correlated with RT for red (r = .18), green (r = .47), and flower stimuli (r = 0.22) but negatively correlated for spiders (r = -0.28). This contrasting correlation of fear ratings with RT was also found when post-experiment ratings of the movie clip were used, but was not found for incorrect trials (all correlations positive and ranging from 0.08 to 0.37). These ERP and RT findings indicate that brain responses in this experimental paradigm are influenced by fear of the Go stimulus and that rapid correct responding to the spider Go signal is specifically enhanced.


EEG, Go-NoGo task, Fear assessment

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.