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The electrophysiological effects of the serotonin 1A receptor agonist buspirone in emotional face processing

Emotional face processing is critically modulated by the serotonergic system, and serotonin (5-HT) receptor agonists impair emotional face processing. However, the specific contribution of the 5-HT1A receptor remains poorly understood. Here we investigated the spatiotemporal brain mechanisms underpinning the modulation of emotional face processing induced by buspirone, a partial 5-HT1A receptor agonist. In a psychophysical discrimination of emotional faces task, we observed that the discrimination fearful versus neutral faces were reduced, but not happy versus neutral faces. Electrical neuroimaging analyses were applied to visual evoked potentials elicited by emotional face images, after placebo and buspirone administration. Buspirone modulated response strength (i.e., global field power) in the interval 230-248 ms after stimulus onset. Distributed source estimation over this time interval revealed that buspirone decreased the neural activity in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that was evoked by fearful faces. These results indicate temporal and valence-specific effects of buspirone on the neuronal correlates of emotional face processing. Furthermore, the reduced neural activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in response to fearful faces suggests a reduced attention to fearful faces. Collectively, these findings provide new insights into the role of 5-HT1A receptors in emotional face processing and have implications for affective disorders that are characterized by an increased attention to negative stimuli. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. and ECNP. All rights reserved.

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