Sensation seeking predicts brain responses in the old-new task: Converging multimodal neuroimaging evidence

Adam L. Lawson, Xun Liu, Jane Joseph, Victoria L. Vagnini, Thomas H. Kelly, Yang Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Novel images and message content enhance visual attention and memory for high sensation seekers, but the neural mechanisms associated with this effect are unclear. To investigate the individual differences in brain responses to new and old (studied) visual stimuli, we utilized event-related potentials (ERP) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) measures to examine brain reactivity among high and low sensation seekers during a classic old-new memory recognition task. Twenty low and 20 high sensation seekers completed separate, but parallel, ERP and fMRI sessions. For each session, participants initially studied drawings of common images, and then performed an old-new recognition task during scanning. High sensation seekers showed greater ERP responses to new objects at the frontal N2 ERP component, compared to low sensation seekers. The ERP Novelty-N2 responses were correlated with fMRI responses in the orbitofrontal gyrus. Sensation seeking status also modulated the FN400 ERP component indexing familiarity and conceptual learning, along with fMRI responses in the caudate nucleus, which correlated with FN400 activity. No group differences were found in the late ERP positive components indexing classic old-new amplitude effects. Our combined ERP and fMRI results suggest that sensation-seeking personality affects the early brain responses to visual processing, but not the later stage of memory recognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-269
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research project was supported by grants from the National Institute of Health P50 DA 05312 to Center on Drug Abuse Research Translation, and AG00986 to YJ at the University of Kentucky. The authors thank D. Powell for his assistance with MRI protocol development and A. Bognar for her MRI technical support, as well as K. Bylica, C. Corbly, and J. Lianekhammy for help in executing the study and preparation of the manuscript.


  • Brain imaging
  • ERP
  • Evoked potentials
  • FMRI
  • Novelty seeking personality
  • Old-new effect
  • Recognition memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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