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      The pupil as a measure of emotional arousal and autonomic activation

      , , ,

      Psychophysiology

      Wiley

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          Abstract

          Pupil diameter was monitored during picture viewing to assess effects of hedonic valence and emotional arousal on pupillary responses. Autonomic activity (heart rate and skin conductance) was concurrently measured to determine whether pupillary changes are mediated by parasympathetic or sympathetic activation. Following an initial light reflex, pupillary changes were larger when viewing emotionally arousing pictures, regardless of whether these were pleasant or unpleasant. Pupillary changes during picture viewing covaried with skin conductance change, supporting the interpretation that sympathetic nervous system activity modulates these changes in the context of affective picture viewing. Taken together, the data provide strong support for the hypothesis that the pupil's response during affective picture viewing reflects emotional arousal associated with increased sympathetic activity.

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          Most cited references 5

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          Pupil Size as Related to Interest Value of Visual Stimuli

           E. Hess,  J Polt (1960)
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            Sympathetic and parasympathetic innervation of pupillary dilation during sustained processing.

            The contributions of separate sympathetic and parasympathetic pathways to pupillary dilation during a sustained processing task were studied through environmental and pharmacological manipulations. In Experiment 1, 22 healthy volunteers (11 female) performed a serial Subtract 7 task while pupil diameter was recorded both during moderate room light and in darkness. In a control for verbalization, subjects performed an easier Add 1 task. In all conditions, pupil diameter increased significantly during the response period as compared to a pre-verbalization baseline period. Pupillary dilation was increased for the difficult task, and further increase in dilation was associated with recording in light. This suggests a major differential contribution to task difficulty mediated through inhibition of the parasympathetic pathway. In Experiment 2, a subgroup of 12 volunteers (seven female) repeated all conditions at three additional sessions in which one eye was instilled with tropicamide (to block the parasympathetic sphincter muscle), dapiprazole (to block the sympathetic dilator muscle) or placebo. All pharmacological conditions resulted in overall dilation during task performance. Differential performance similar to the placebo condition was seen only in the dapiprazole condition, when parasympathetic activation was intact. The findings suggest that sustained performance during a difficult task is modulated by cortical inhibition of the parasympathetic pathway at the oculomotor nucleus. Moreover, modulation of both ambient light intensity and pharmacological blockade of the final pupillary musculature were observed to provide converging approaches for quantifying the activity of identifiable central autonomic pathways.
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              Pupillary and cardiac activity during visual attention.

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Psychophysiology
                Psychophysiology
                Wiley
                0048-5772
                1469-8986
                July 2008
                July 2008
                : 45
                : 4
                : 602-607
                Article
                10.1111/j.1469-8986.2008.00654.x
                3612940
                18282202
                © 2008

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