The temporal unfolding of face processing in social anxiety disorder - A MEG study

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The current study is the first to use magnetoencephalography (MEG) to examine how individuals with social anxiety disorder (SAD) process emotional facial expressions (EFEs). We expected that, compared to healthy controls (HCs), participants with SAD will show an early (<200 ms post-stimulus) over-activation in the insula and the fusiform gyrus (FG, associated with the N170/M170 component), and later (>200 ms post-stimulus) over-activation in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Individuals with SAD (n = 12) and healthy controls (HCs, n = 12) were presented with photographs of facial displays during MEG recording. As compared to the HC group, the SAD group showed a reduced M170 (right FG under-activation around 130-200 ms); early reduced activation in the right insula, and lower insular sensitivity to the type of EFE displayed. In addition, the SAD group showed a late over-activation in the right DLPFC. This unique EFE processing pattern in SAD suggests an early under-activation of cortical areas, possibly related to reduced emphasis on high spatial frequency information and greater early emphasis on low spatial frequency information. The late DLPFC over-activation in the SAD group may correlate to failures of cognitive control in this disorder. The importance of a temporal perspective for the understanding of facial processing in psychopathology is underlined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)678-687
Number of pages10
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Israel Foundation Trustees Program for the Advancement of Research in the Social Sciences grant number 29 , awarded to Sharon Riwkes and by the Israeli Science Foundation Grant number 455-2010 awarded to Eva Gilboa-Schechtman.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc.


  • Cognitive control
  • Facial processing
  • Magnetoenchephalography
  • Regulation
  • Social anxiety


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