Sights and sounds of emotion trigger big brain responses

Nov 02, 2009

Researchers at the University of York have identified a part of the brain that responds to both facial and vocal expressions of emotion.

They used the MagnetoEncephaloGraphic (MEG) scanner at the York Neuroimaging Centre to test responses in a region of the known as the posterior superior temporal sulcus.

The research team from the University's Department of Psychology and York Neuroimaging Centre found that the posterior superior temporal sulcus responds so strongly to a face plus a voice that it clearly has a 'multimodal' rather than an exclusively visual function. The research is published in the latest issue of (PNAS).

Test participants were shown photographs of people with fearful and neutral , and were played fearful and neutral vocal sounds, separately and together. Responses in the posterior superior temporal sulcus were substantially heightened when subjects could both see and hear the emotional faces and voices, but not when subjects could both see and hear the neutral faces and voices.

Researchers believe that the finding could help in the study of autism and other neuro-developmental disorders which exhibit face perception deficits.

Lead researcher Dr Cindy Hagan said: "Previous models of face perception suggested that this region of the brain responds to the face alone, but we demonstrated a supra-additive response to emotional faces and voices presented together - the response was greater than the sum of the parts."

Professor Andy Young added: "This is important because emotions in everyday life are often intrinsically multimodal - expressed through face, posture and voice at the same time."

The research involved tests on 19 people using York Centre's £1.1 million MEG scanner which provides a non-invasive way of mapping the magnetic fields created by electrical activity in the brain.

Source: University of York

Explore further: Safe driving period calculated following first-time seizure

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Body language more expressive than faces

Oct 24, 2005

Body language can shape first impressions of a person's emotional state, even when attention is focused on facial expression, Netherlands scientists said.

People identify fearful faces before happy ones

Oct 19, 2007

A new study proves that the brain becomes aware of fearful faces more quickly than faces showing other emotions: a capability that may have evolved to direct attention to potential threats.

Recommended for you

Children with autism have extra synapses in brain

16 hours ago

Children and adolescents with autism have a surplus of synapses in the brain, and this excess is due to a slowdown in a normal brain "pruning" process during development, according to a study by neuroscientists ...

Learning to play the piano? Sleep on it!

18 hours ago

According to researchers at the University of Montreal, the regions of the brain below the cortex play an important role as we train our bodies' movements and, critically, they interact more effectively after ...

User comments : 0