Chapter 4 - Electro- and Magneto-Encephalography in the Study of Emotion  pp. 107-132

Electro- and Magneto-Encephalography in the Study of Emotion

By Andreas Keil

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The conscious stream has fuzzy water in it, as well as driftwood, swimming fish, floating leaves and grass, and of course, careful scientific thinking.

– William James, Principles of Psychology

Affective neuroscience studies using electro-encephalography (EEG) or magneto-encep-halography (MEG) frequently highlight these methods’ exquisite temporal resolution for capturing the electrophysiology of emotion. Although this is already a desirable property, electrophysiological measurements have additional advantages: They are more affordable than hemodynamic imaging techniques, are widely available, and impose little if any discomfort on research participants. As a consequence, electrophysiological methods have found wide application in the cognitive and affective neurosciences. Recent years have seen exciting developments in virtually every aspect of EEG/MEG research of emotion, ranging from innovation in data-recording techniques to novel experimental paradigms and sophisticated analysis techniques. It is now possible to record from high-density sensor arrays at hundreds of extracranial locations, providing impressive spatial sampling along with high temporal accuracy. Combination of electrophysiological methods with other imaging modalities has been particularly fruitful. Modeling studies of meso- and macroscopic brain activity (i.e., activity in small and large groups of neurons) have provided a constantly improving conceptual framework for interpreting the measured signals.

Because of this rich potential for addressing pertinent questions in the affective neurosciences, human electrophysiology has been a popular avenue for studying emotion. Over the last decade, this field has seen high productivity, with increasing numbers of published research reports, now accounting for hundreds of papers per year. In fact, electrophysiological measures have been used to address questions centered on human emotional experience and behavior since their inception in the late 1920s. It is thus helpful to begin by reviewing a few key events that have shaped the present state of the field.

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