Event-related EEG oscillatory responses elicited by dynamic facial expression

Tuba Aktürk, Tom A. de Graaf, Yasemin Abra, Sevilay Sahoglu-Goktas, Dilek Ozkan, Aysun Kula, Bahar Guntekin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Recognition of facial expressions (FEs) plays a crucial role in social interactions. Most studies on FE recognition use static (image) stimuli, even though real-life FEs are dynamic. FE processing is complex and multifaceted, and its neural correlates remain unclear. Transitioning from static to dynamic FE stimuli might help disentangle the neural oscillatory mechanisms underlying face processing and recognition of emotion expression. To our knowledge, we here present the first time-frequency exploration of oscillatory brain mechanisms underlying the processing of dynamic FEs. Results Videos of joyful, fearful, and neutral dynamic facial expressions were presented to 18 included healthy young adults. We analyzed event-related activity in electroencephalography (EEG) data, focusing on the delta, theta, and alpha-band oscillations. Since the videos involved a transition from neutral to emotional expressions (onset around 500 ms), we identified time windows that might correspond to face perception initially (time window 1; first TW), and emotion expression recognition subsequently (around 1000 ms; second TW). First TW showed increased power and phase-locking values for all frequency bands. In the first TW, power and phase-locking values were higher in the delta and theta bands for emotional FEs as compared to neutral FEs, thus potentially serving as a marker for emotion recognition in dynamic face processing. Conclusions Our time-frequency exploration revealed consistent oscillatory responses to complex, dynamic, ecologically meaningful FE stimuli. We conclude that while dynamic FE processing involves complex network dynamics, dynamic FEs were successfully used to reveal temporally separate oscillation responses related to face processing and subsequently emotion expression recognition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number41
Number of pages17
JournalBiomedical Engineering Online
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2021


  • Event-related oscillations
  • Dynamic facial expression
  • Event-related power analysis
  • Emotion

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