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Neuroimage. 2002 Apr;15(4):856-69.

Dynamic brain activation during processing of emotional intonation: influence of acoustic parameters, emotional valence, and sex.

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  • 1Section MR of CNS, Department of Neuroradiology, University of Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.


Appreciation of the emotional tone of verbal utterances represents an important aspect of social life. It is still unsettled, however, which brain areas mediate processing of intonational information and whether the presumed right-sided superiority depends upon acoustic properties of the speech signal. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to disentangle brain activation associated with (i) extraction of specific acoustic cues and (ii) detection of specific emotional states. Stimulus material comprised pairs of emotionally intonated utterances, exclusively differing either in pitch range or in the length of stressed vowels. Hemodynamic responses showed a dynamic pattern of cerebral activation including sequenced bilateral responses of various cortical and subcortical structures. Activation associated with discrimination of emotional expressiveness predominantly emerged within the right inferior parietal lobule, within the bilateral mesiofrontal cortex and--with an asymmetry toward the right hemisphere--at the level of bilateral dorsolateral frontal cortex. Lateralization did not depend upon acoustic structure or emotional valence of stimuli. These findings might prove helpful in reconciling the controversial previous clinical and experimental data.

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