Brain-body interaction during auditory narratives drives autonomic function
Jens Madsen1 (email@example.com), Lucas C. Parra2; 1City College of New York
When people listen to auditory narratives both neural and physiological signals can synchronize between people, but the relationship between these signals, and the underlying mechanism is unclear. We hypothesized a top-down effect of cognition on arousal, and predicted that auditory narratives will drive not only brain signals but also peripheral physiological signals. Despite the lack of visual stimuli, we find that auditory narratives entrain eye movements, saccade initiation, blink onset, pupil size, and heart rate. This is consistent with a top-down effect of cognition on autonomic function. We elaborate on the underlying mechanism by investigating the brain-body interaction when people listen to auditory narratives and at rest. We found an anterior-central EEG scalp potential that correlates with heart rate, pupil size and gaze variation. In addition, we hypothesized a bottom-up effect, whereby autonomic physiology affects arousal. To investigate this bottom-up effect we conducted controlled experiments asking people to breathe in a rhythmic fashion, saccade rhythmically to a dot pattern and vary luminance modulating the pupil size. We found that controlled breathing not only affected heart rate but also pupil size. During controlled saccades we found the heart rate entrained to specific rhythms whereas controlled luminance did not have a widespread effect on other physiological signals. Together this suggests bidirectional causal effects between peripheral autonomic function and central brain circuits involved in the control of arousal.
Topic Area: ATTENTION: Multisensory
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