The Emotional Homunculus: Visual emotion discrimination and personality traits effects in somatosensory cortex
Beatriz Calvo-Merino1, Irena Arslanova1, Vasiliki Meletaki1, Bettina Forster; 1City, Univerity of London, UK
Somatosensory cortex (SCx) plays an active role in emotion perception, as important bridge between our own body representations and the observed emotions. Crucially, somatosensory engagement during an emotion recognition visual task has been reported over and above any potential carry over effects from visual regions (Sel et al., 2014). Here we evaluate if somatosensory engagement during emotion recognition is sensitive to the perception of different emotions, and if it is modulated by intrinsic properties of the observer such as their emotional wellbeing (measured via Beck’s depression inventory) or ability to understand emotions (measured via an alexithymia questionnaire, TAS). We directly measured participants’ somatosensory-evoked activity (SEPs) by tactually probing (105 ms post presentation of visual facial stimuli) the state of SCx during an emotion discrimination visual task of faces displaying angry, sad, happy and neutral expressions. A control condition with only visual evoked potentials was subtracted from our experimental condition to remove any visually-driven effects from our somatosensory evoked potentials. Results show an early modulation of somatosensory evoked potentials depending on the type of emotion perceived, and this modulation occurs at different latencies for the perception of angry, sad and happy images. An embodiment neural index was calculated for each emotion, separately for every participant, and correlated to each subjective measure. Overall, our data provide evidence for somatosensory cortex’ role in emotion discrimination, beyond mere visually driven processing, and highlights the relation between subjective information and embodied emotion.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Person perception