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Integrative Processing of Touch and Affect in Social Perception: An fMRI Study

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Integrative Processing of Touch and Affect in Social Perception: An fMRI Study


Social perception commonly employs multiple sources of information. The present study aimed at investigating the integrative processing of affective social signals. Task-related and task-free functional magnetic resonance imaging was performed in 26 healthy adult participants during a social perception task concerning dynamic visual stimuli simultaneously depicting facial expressions of emotion and tactile sensations that could be either congruent or incongruent. Confounding effects due to affective valence, inhibitory top–down influences, cross-modal integration, and conflict processing were minimized. The results showed that the perception of congruent, compared to incongruent stimuli, elicited enhanced neural activity in a set of brain regions including left amygdala, bilateral posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), and left superior parietal cortex. These congruency effects did not differ as a function of emotion or sensation. A complementary task-related functional interaction analysis preliminarily suggested that amygdala activity depended on previous processing stages in fusiform gyrus and PCC. The findings provide support for the integrative processing of social information about others’ feelings from manifold bodily sources (sensory-affective information) in amygdala and PCC. Given that the congruent stimuli were also judged as being more self-related and more familiar in terms of personal experience in an independent sample of participants, we speculate that such integrative processing might be mediated by the linking of external stimuli with self-experience. Finally, the prediction of task-related responses in amygdala by intrinsic functional connectivity between amygdala and PCC during a task-free state implies a neuro-functional basis for an individual predisposition for the integrative processing of social stimulus content.

Ebisch, SJH and Salone, A and Martinotti, G and Carlucci, L and Mantini, D and Perucci, MG and Saggino, A and Romani, GL and Di Giannantonio, M and Northoff, G and Gallese, Vittorio (2016) Integrative Processing of Touch and Affect in Social Perception: An fMRI Study. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 10 . ISSN 1662-453X


Item Type: Article
Subjects: Philosophy
Keywords: social perception, emotion, somatosensory, fMRI, facial expression, tactile sensation
Divisions: Institute of Philosophy
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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00209
URI: http://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/id/eprint/6552
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