Humans are especially interested in faces, as a means of sending signals--witness the sizeable arc of somatosensory cortex devoted to representation of one's own face--and as a substrate for social cognition. Pitcher et al. describe results supporting theories of embodied cognition and emotion, which posit cognition and emotion as being shaped by our bodily movements and perceptions. They used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to interfere with neural activity in the face areas of the somatosensory cortex while people discriminated the emotional expressions of faces (happy, sad, surprised, fearful, angry, and disgusted) and found that accuracy dropped significantly, as it also did when the occipital face area was similarly stimulated. The temporal sequence of neural processing was then delineated using double-pulse TMS, showing that the occipital area acted in the time window from 60 to 100 ms after the face stimulus was shown, whereas the somatosensory area was active a bit later, between 100 and 170 ms.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Our somatosensory cortex embodies the facial expressions of others
The Editor's choice section of science describes an interesting bit of work by Pitcher et al. showing the embodyment of our social cognition: