1. Neuroscience
Download icon

Emotional faces guide the eyes in the absence of awareness

  1. Petra Vetter  Is a corresponding author
  2. Stephanie Badde
  3. Elizabeth A Phelps
  4. Marisa Carrasco  Is a corresponding author
  1. Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom
  2. New York University, United States
Short Report
  • Cited 8
  • Views 3,677
  • Annotations
Cite this article as: eLife 2019;8:e43467 doi: 10.7554/eLife.43467


The ability to act quickly to a threat is a key skill for survival. Under awareness, threat-related emotional information, such as an angry or fearful face, has not only perceptual advantages but also guides rapid actions such as eye movements. Emotional information that is suppressed from awareness still confers perceptual and attentional benefits. However, it is unknown whether suppressed emotional information can directly guide actions, or whether emotional information has to enter awareness to do so. We suppressed emotional faces from awareness using continuous flash suppression and tracked eye gaze position. Under successful suppression, as indicated by objective and subjective measures, gaze moved towards fearful faces, but away from angry faces. Our findings reveal that: (1) threat-related emotional stimuli can guide eye movements in the absence of visual awareness; (2) threat-related emotional face information guides distinct oculomotor actions depending on the type of threat conveyed by the emotional expression.

Data availability

Source data and all analyses are available on Github (https://github.com/StephBadde/EyeMovementsSuppressedEmotionalFaces).

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Petra Vetter

    Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-6516-4637
  2. Stephanie Badde

    Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, United States
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-4005-5503
  3. Elizabeth A Phelps

    Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, United States
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  4. Marisa Carrasco

    Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    Marisa Carrasco, Reviewing editor, eLife.


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (VE 739/1-1)

  • Petra Vetter

National Institutes of Health (NIH-RO1-EY016200)

  • Marisa Carrasco

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (BA 5600/1-1)

  • Stephanie Badde

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.


Human subjects: All participants took part in the experiment in exchange for course credits and signed an informed consent form. The experiment was conducted according to the guidelines of the Declaration of Helsinki and approved by the ethics committee of New York University (IRB# 13-9582).

Reviewing Editor

  1. Melvyn Goodale, Western University, Canada

Publication history

  1. Received: November 7, 2018
  2. Accepted: February 7, 2019
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: February 8, 2019 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: February 20, 2019 (version 2)


© 2019, Vetter et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


  • 3,677
    Page views
  • 349
  • 8

Article citation count generated by polling the highest count across the following sources: Crossref, PubMed Central, Scopus.

Download links

A two-part list of links to download the article, or parts of the article, in various formats.

Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)

Download citations (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)

Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)

Further reading

    1. Neuroscience
    P Christiaan Klink et al.
    Research Article Updated

    Population receptive field (pRF) modeling is a popular fMRI method to map the retinotopic organization of the human brain. While fMRI-based pRF maps are qualitatively similar to invasively recorded single-cell receptive fields in animals, it remains unclear what neuronal signal they represent. We addressed this question in awake nonhuman primates comparing whole-brain fMRI and large-scale neurophysiological recordings in areas V1 and V4 of the visual cortex. We examined the fits of several pRF models based on the fMRI blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal, multi-unit spiking activity (MUA), and local field potential (LFP) power in different frequency bands. We found that pRFs derived from BOLD-fMRI were most similar to MUA-pRFs in V1 and V4, while pRFs based on LFP gamma power also gave a good approximation. fMRI-based pRFs thus reliably reflect neuronal receptive field properties in the primate brain. In addition to our results in V1 and V4, the whole-brain fMRI measurements revealed retinotopic tuning in many other cortical and subcortical areas with a consistent increase in pRF size with increasing eccentricity, as well as a retinotopically specific deactivation of default mode network nodes similar to previous observations in humans.

    1. Developmental Biology
    2. Neuroscience
    Eduardo Loureiro-Campos et al.
    Research Article

    The transcription factor activating protein two gamma (AP2γ) is an important regulator of neurogenesis both during embryonic development as well as in the postnatal brain, but its role for neurophysiology and behavior at distinct postnatal periods is still unclear. In this work, we explored the neurogenic, behavioral, and functional impact of a constitutive and heterozygous AP2γ deletion in mice from early postnatal development until adulthood. AP2γ deficiency promotes downregulation of hippocampal glutamatergic neurogenesis, altering the ontogeny of emotional and memory behaviors associated with hippocampus formation. The impairments induced by AP2γ constitutive deletion since early development leads to an anxious-like phenotype and memory impairments as early as the juvenile phase. These behavioral impairments either persist from the juvenile phase to adulthood or emerge in adult mice with deficits in behavioral flexibility and object location recognition. Collectively, we observed a progressive and cumulative impact of constitutive AP2γ deficiency on the hippocampal glutamatergic neurogenic process, as well as alterations on limbic-cortical connectivity, together with functional behavioral impairments. The results herein presented demonstrate the modulatory role exerted by the AP2γ transcription factor and the relevance of hippocampal neurogenesis in the development of emotional states and memory processes.