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Acute stress increases left hemispheric activity measured via changes in frontal alpha asymmetries

Publication year 2022
Published in iScience
Authors Gesa Berretz, J. Packheiser, Oliver T Wolf, Sebastian Ocklenburg

Frontal EEG alpha band asymmetries have been linked to affective processing in healthy individuals and affective disorders. As stress provides a strong source of negative affect, the present study investigated how acute stress affects frontal EEG alpha asymmetries. Continuous EEG data were acquired from 51 healthy adult participants during stress induction with the Trier Social Stress Test. EEG data were also collected during a non-stressful control condition. Furthermore, EEG resting state data were acquired after both conditions. Under stress, participants showed stronger left hemispheric activation over frontal electrodes as well as reduced left-hemispheric activation over occipital electrodes compared to the control condition. Our results are in line with predictions of the asymmetric inhibition model which postulates that the left prefrontal cortex inhibits negative distractors. Moreover, the results support the capability model of emotional regulation which states that frontal asymmetries during emotional challenge are more pronounced compared to asymmetries during rest.

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