Emotional Priming With Facial Exposures in Euthymic Patients With Bipolar Disorder

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People with bipolar disorder have abnormal emotional processing. We investigated the automatic and controlled emotional processing via a priming paradigm with subliminal and supraliminal facial exposure. We compared 20 euthymic bipolar patients and 20 healthy subjects on their performance in subliminal and supraliminal tasks. Priming tasks consisted of three different primes according to facial emotions (happy, sad, and neutral) followed by a neutral face as a target stimulus. The prime stimuli were presented subliminally (17 msec) or supraliminally (1000 msec). In subliminal tasks, both patients and controls judged the neutral target face as significantly more unpleasant (negative judgment shift) when presented with negative emotion primes compared with positive primes. In supraliminal tasks, bipolar subjects showed significant negative judgment shift, whereas healthy subjects did not. There was a significant group × emotion interaction for the judgment rate in supraliminal tasks. Our finding of persistent affective priming even at conscious awareness may suggest that bipolar patients have impaired cognitive control on emotional processing rather than automatically spreading activation of emotion.

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