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Rochelle Basil, Margaret Westwater, Martin Wiener, James Thompson; Theta-burst rTMS to the right superior temporal sulcus impairs emotion recognition from biological motion. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):1186. doi: 10.1167/16.12.1186.
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© 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
Understanding the emotions of others through nonverbal means is critical for successful social interactions. Social communication hinges upon the ability to read and respond appropriately to the bodily kinematics of others. Although healthy individuals recognize emotions from sparse point light displays (PLDs) of body movements, individuals suffering with neurocognitive disorders like schizophrenia and Autism Spectrum Disorder show impairment in such recognition. Research has implicated the right superior temporal sulcus (rSTS) as a cortical region involved in the perception of biological motion. In the present study, we temporarily disrupted neural activity of the rSTS by using continuous theta-burst repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to examine whether the rSTS plays a causal role in the recognition of emotions from biological motion. Participants (N= 23; 13 females) completed two rTMS sessions in which we assessed the accuracy and reaction time (RT) of emotion recognition (angry, happy, fearful) from biological motion stimuli, as well as non-biological motion recognition using a global motion control task. We applied rTMS for 41 seconds on two separate cortical regions: (1) the rSTS, individually localized through fMRI using a comparison of intact versus scrambled biological motion stimuli and (2) vertex. Accuracy and RT were assessed before and after rTMS. Using repeated measures ANOVA, we found an interaction between rTMS site and stimulus type (p < 0.05), reflecting reduced accuracy of emotion recognition from biological motion following rTMS to rSTS but not vertex while accuracy in the global motion control condition did not differ across sites. Effects of rTMS on reaction time were not significant (p>0.1). These data support the causal role of the rSTS in decoding information about other's emotional state from their body movements. These effects were not due to an overall global motion deficit.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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