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Dynamic pupillary exchange engages brain regions encoding social salience

Harrison, N.A. ORCID:, Gray, M.A. and Critchley, H.D. 2009. Dynamic pupillary exchange engages brain regions encoding social salience. Social Neuroscience 4 (3) , pp. 233-243. 10.1080/17470910802553508

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Covert exchange of autonomic responses may shape social affective behavior, as observed in mirroring of pupillary responses during sadness processing. We examined how, independent of facial emotional expression, dynamic coherence between one's own and another's pupil size modulates regional brain activity. Fourteen subjects viewed pairs of eye stimuli while undergoing fMRI. Using continuous pupillometry biofeedback, the size of the observed pupils was varied, correlating positively or negatively with changes in participants’ own pupils. Viewing both static and dynamic stimuli activated right fusiform gyrus. Observing dynamically changing pupils activated STS and amygdala, regions engaged by non-static and salient facial features. Discordance between observed and observer's pupillary changes enhanced activity within bilateral anterior insula, left amygdala and anterior cingulate. In contrast, processing positively correlated pupils enhanced activity within left frontal operculum. Our findings suggest pupillary signals are monitored continuously during social interactions and that incongruent changes activate brain regions involved in tracking motivational salience and attentionally meaningful information. Naturalistically, dynamic coherence in pupillary change follows fluctuations in ambient light. Correspondingly, in social contexts discordant pupil response is likely to reflect divergence of dispositional state. Our data provide empirical evidence for an autonomically mediated extension of forward models of motor control into social interaction.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge): STM, Behavioural Science and Public Health Titles
ISSN: 1747-0919
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2022 14:03

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