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Reviews in the Neurosciences

Editor-in-Chief: Huston, Joseph P.

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Volume 24, Issue 1


Spatial frequencies and emotional perception

Andrea De Cesarei
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Viale Berti Pichat, 5, I-40127 Bologna, Italy
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/ Maurizio Codispoti
  • Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Viale Berti Pichat, 5, I-40127 Bologna, Italy
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2012-11-19 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2012-0053


It has been suggested that, during evolution, specific mechanisms developed in order to optimize the detection of threats and opportunities even in perceptually degraded conditions. A naturalistic example of perceptual degradation can be found in blurry images, which contain the coarsest elements of a scene (low spatial frequencies) but lack the fine-grained details (high spatial frequencies). In the past decade, several studies have examined the relation between spatial frequencies and emotions, using a variety of methods, stimuli, and rationales. Here, we conduct a literature survey on the studies that have examined the relation between emotion and spatial frequencies. Some studies have suggested that the low spatial frequencies of emotional stimuli may be processed by a subcortical neural pathway, eventually eliciting emotional responses. However, the evidence provided by the reviewed studies does not support this possibility, for conceptual and methodological reasons (e.g., mistaking the processing of a fuzzy stimulus for subcortical processing). Here, the conceptual and methodological problems present in the reviewed studies are analyzed and discussed, along with suggestions for future research.

Keywords: amygdala; emotion; scene identification; spatial frequencies; visual cortex

About the article

Andrea De Cesarei

Andrea De Cesarei is postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Psychology of the University of Bologna. His main research interests involve the relationships between perception and emotional responses.

Maurizio Codispoti

Maurizio Codispoti is Professor of Psychology at the Department of Psychology of the University of Bologna, and Director of the Emotional Perception Laboratory. His research focuses on emotion, perception and memory, using a multi-method approach, and includes measures of emotion experience, expressive behavior, autonomic physiology, and brain activation.

Corresponding author: Andrea De Cesarei, Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Viale Berti Pichat, 5, I-40127 Bologna, Italy

Received: 2012-07-10

Accepted: 2012-08-08

Published Online: 2012-11-19

Published in Print: 2013-02-01

Citation Information: Reviews in the Neurosciences, Volume 24, Issue 1, Pages 89–104, ISSN (Online) 2191-0200, ISSN (Print) 0334-1763, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2012-0053.

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