A repetition paradigm was used to assess the nature of affective modulation of early and late components of the event-related potential (ERP) during picture viewing. High-density ERPs were measured while participants passively viewed affective or neutral pictures that were repeated up to 90 times each. Both ERP components were modulated by emotional arousal, with ERPs elicited when viewing pleasant and unpleasant pictures different than when viewing neutral pictures. On the other hand, repetition had different effects on these two components. The early occipitotemporal component (150–300 msec) primarily showed a decrease in amplitude within a block of repetitions that did not differ as a function of picture content. The late centroparietal component (300–600 msec) showed a decrease both between and within blocks of repetitions, with neutral pictures eliciting no late positive potential in the final block of the study. The data suggest that the early ERP primarily reflects obligatory perceptual processing that is facilitated by active short-term memory representations, whereas the late ERP reflects increased resource allocation due to the motivational relevance of affective cues.

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