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Eur J Neurosci. 2006 Dec;24(12):3611-8.

How does the brain mediate interpretation of incongruent auditory emotions? The neural response to prosody in the presence of conflicting lexico-semantic cues.

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School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Whiteknights Road, Reading, Berkshire RG6 6AL, UK.


We frequently encounter conflicting emotion cues. This study examined how the neural response to emotional prosody differed in the presence of congruent and incongruent lexico-semantic cues. Two hypotheses were assessed: (i) decoding emotional prosody with conflicting lexico-semantic cues would activate brain regions associated with cognitive conflict (anterior cingulate and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) or (ii) the increased attentional load of incongruent cues would modulate the activity of regions that decode emotional prosody (right lateral temporal cortex). While the participants indicated the emotion conveyed by prosody, functional magnetic resonance imaging data were acquired on a 3T scanner using blood oxygenation level-dependent contrast. Using SPM5, the response to congruent cues was contrasted with that to emotional prosody alone, as was the response to incongruent lexico-semantic cues (for the 'cognitive conflict' hypothesis). The right lateral temporal lobe region of interest analyses examined modulation of activity in this brain region between these two contrasts (for the 'prosody cortex' hypothesis). Dorsolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex activity was not observed, and neither was attentional modulation of activity in right lateral temporal cortex activity. However, decoding emotional prosody with incongruent lexico-semantic cues was strongly associated with left inferior frontal gyrus activity. This specialist form of conflict is therefore not processed by the brain using the same neural resources as non-affective cognitive conflict and neither can it be handled by associated sensory cortex alone. The recruitment of inferior frontal cortex may indicate increased semantic processing demands but other contributory functions of this region should be explored.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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