, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 380-388

Emotion and motor preparation: A transcranial magnetic stimulation study of corticospinal motor tract excitability

Abstract

In the present study, we examined whether preparing motor responses under different emotional conditions alters motor evoked potentials (MEPs) elicited by transcranial magnetic stimulation delivered to the motor cortex. Analyses revealed three findings: (1) Reaction times were expedited during exposure to unpleasant images, as compared with pleasant and neutral images; (2) force amplitude was greater during exposure to unpleasant images, as compared with pleasant and neutral images; and (3) MEPs were larger while participants viewed unpleasant images, as compared with neutral images. Hence, coupling the preparation of motor responses with the viewing of emotional images led to arousal-driven changes in corticospinal motor tract excitability, whereas movement speed and force production varied as a function of emotional valence. These findings demonstrate that the effects of emotion on the motor system manifest at varying sensitivity levels across behavioral and neurophysiological measures. Moreover, they validate the action readiness component of emotional experience by demonstrating that emotional states influence the execution of future movements but, alone, do not lead to overt movement.

This research was supported in part by National Institute of Health Grants F32-MH-083424, R03-MH-70678, and R03-HD-044534 and American Heart Association Grant 00061194.