The power of imagination--how anticipatory mental imagery alters perceptual processing of fearful facial expressions.
Diekhof, E.K., Kipshagen, H.E., Falkai, P., Dechent, P., Baudewig, J., Gruber, O. – 2010
Expectancies strongly shape our perception of the world and preconceptions about stimulus characteristics can even bias the sensory system for illusory percepts. Here we assessed with functional magnetic resonance imaging how anticipatory mental imagery of a mildly fearful face created a predictive bias that proactively altered perception of highly fearful faces and generated the „illusion“; of reduced fearfulness. We found that anticipatory activation of the fusiform gyrus (FG) was modulated by the fearfulness of the imagined face. Further during anticipatory imagery, regulatory influences from the lateral and ventromedial prefrontal cortex on the FG primed the perceptual system for a subsequent misperception. This was achieved by increasing perceptual activation in higher-order brain regions for the evaluation of affective valence and contextual framing, while at the same time restricting bottom-up arousal and attention to fearful expressions. Anticipatory mental imagery may thus represent an effective antecedent strategy through which emotional perception can be significantly altered.