Impact Factor
This article is part of the Research Topic The neurobiology of emotion-cognition interactions


Front. Hum. Neurosci., 23 April 2013 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00151

The emotional attentional blink: what we know so far

  • 1Vanderbilt Brain Institute, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA
  • 2Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA
  • 3Department of Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA

The emotional attentional blink (EAB), also known as emotion-induced blindness, refers to a phenomenon in which the brief appearance of a task-irrelevant, emotionally arousing image captures attention to such an extent that individuals cannot detect target stimuli for several hundred ms after the emotional stimulus. The EAB allows for mental chronometry of stimulus-driven attention and the time needed to disengage and refocus goal-directed attention. In this review, we discuss current evidence for the mechanisms through which the EAB occurs. Although the EAB shares some similarities to both surprise-induced blindness (SiB) and other paradigms for assessing emotion-attention interactions, it possesses features that are distinct from these paradigms, and thus appears to provide a unique measure of the influence of emotion on stimulus-driven attention. The neural substrates of the EAB are not completely understood, but neuroimaging and neuropsychological data suggest some possible neural mechanisms underlying the phenomenon. The importance of understanding the EAB is highlighted by recent evidence indicating that EAB tasks can detect altered sensitivity to disorder relevant stimuli in psychiatric conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Keywords: emotion, attentional blink, stimulus-driven attention, amygdala, anxiety

Citation: McHugo M, Olatunji BO and Zald DH (2013) The emotional attentional blink: what we know so far. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:151. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00151

Received: 15 January 2013; Accepted: 06 April 2013;
Published online: 23 April 2013.

Edited by:

Luiz Pessoa, University of Maryland, USA

Reviewed by:

Bryan A. Strange, Technical University Madrid, Spain
Seung-Lark Lim, University of Missouri - Kansas City, USA

Copyright © 2013 McHugo, Olatunji and Zald. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Maureen McHugo, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, 301 Wilson Hall, 111 21st Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37240, USA. e-mail: maureen.mchugo@vanderbilt.edu