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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Is the processing of affective prosody influenced by spatial attention? an ERP study

Julia C Gädeke1, Julia Föcker2 and Brigitte Röder1*

Author Affiliations

1 Biological Psychology and Neuropsychology, University of Hamburg, Von-Melle-Park 11, Hamburg, 20146, Germany

2 Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Geneva, Boulevard du Pont-d'Arve 40, Geneva, 1205, Switzerland

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BMC Neuroscience 2013, 14:14  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-14-14

Published: 29 January 2013



The present study asked whether the processing of affective prosody is modulated by spatial attention. Pseudo-words with a neutral, happy, threatening, and fearful prosody were presented at two spatial positions. Participants attended to one position in order to detect infrequent targets. Emotional prosody was task irrelevant. The electro-encephalogram (EEG) was recorded to assess processing differences as a function of spatial attention and emotional valence.


Event-related potentials (ERPs) differed as a function of emotional prosody both when attended and when unattended. While emotional prosody effects interacted with effects of spatial attention at early processing levels (< 200 ms), these effects were additive at later processing stages (> 200 ms).


Emotional prosody, therefore, seems to be partially processed outside the focus of spatial attention. Whereas at early sensory processing stages spatial attention modulates the degree of emotional voice processing as a function of emotional valence, emotional prosody is processed outside of the focus of spatial attention at later processing stages.

Voices; Prosody; Spatial attention; Emotion; ERPs