Functional neuroimaging and electroencephalography reveal emotional effects in the early visual cortex. Here, we used functional near-infrared spectroscopy to examine haemodynamic responses evoked by neutral, positive and negative emotional pictures, matched for brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, spatial frequency and entropy. Emotion content modulated amplitude and latency of oxy, deoxy and total haemoglobin response peaks, and induced peripheral autonomic reactions. The processing of positive and negative pictures enhanced haemodynamic response amplitude, and this effect was paralleled by blood pressure changes. The processing of positive pictures was reflected in reduced haemodynamic response peak latency. Together these data suggest that the early visual cortex holds amplitude-dependent representation of stimulus salience and latency-dependent information regarding stimulus valence, providing new insight into affective interaction with sensory processing. © 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.