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J Neurosci. 2010 Oct 13;30(41):13552-7. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0786-10.2010.

Suppressing sensorimotor activity modulates the discrimination of auditory emotions but not speaker identity.

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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences, University College London, London, United Kingdom.


Our ability to recognize the emotions of others is a crucial feature of human social cognition. Functional neuroimaging studies indicate that activity in sensorimotor cortices is evoked during the perception of emotion. In the visual domain, right somatosensory cortex activity has been shown to be critical for facial emotion recognition. However, the importance of sensorimotor representations in modalities outside of vision remains unknown. Here we use continuous theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation (cTBS) to investigate whether neural activity in the right postcentral gyrus (rPoG) and right lateral premotor cortex (rPM) is involved in nonverbal auditory emotion recognition. Three groups of participants completed same-different tasks on auditory stimuli, discriminating between the emotion expressed and the speakers' identities, before and following cTBS targeted at rPoG, rPM, or the vertex (control site). A task-selective deficit in auditory emotion discrimination was observed. Stimulation to rPoG and rPM resulted in a disruption of participants' abilities to discriminate emotion, but not identity, from vocal signals. These findings suggest that sensorimotor activity may be a modality-independent mechanism which aids emotion discrimination.

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