We examined how responses to aversive pictures affected performance and stimulus-locked event-related potentials (ERPs) recorded during a demanding cognitive task. Numeric Stroop stimuli were briefly presented to either left or right visual hemifield (LVF and RVF, respectively) after a centrally presented aversive or neutral picture from the International Affective Picture System. Subjects indicated whether a quantity value from each Stroop stimulus matched the preceding Stroop stimulus while passively viewing the pictures. After aversive pictures, responses were more accurate for LVF Stroops and less accurate for RVF Stroops. Early-latency extrastriate attention-dependent visual ERPs were enhanced for LVF Stroops. The N2 ERP was enhanced for LVF Stroops over the right frontal and parietal scalp sites. Slow potentials (300–800 msec) recorded over the frontal and parietal regions showed enhanced picture related modulation and amplitude for LVF Stroops. These results suggest that emotional responses to aversive pictures selectively facilitated right hemisphere processing during higher cognitive task performance.

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