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Emotional complexity and the neural representation of emotion in motion

Tavares, Paula, Barnard, Philip J. and Lawrence, Andrew David ORCID: 2010. Emotional complexity and the neural representation of emotion in motion. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 6 (1) , pp. 98-108. 10.1093/scan/nsq021

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According to theories of emotional complexity, individuals low in emotional complexity encode and represent emotions in visceral or action-oriented terms, whereas individuals high in emotional complexity encode and represent emotions in a differentiated way, using multiple emotion concepts. During functional magnetic resonance imaging, participants viewed valenced animated scenarios of simple ball-like figures attending either to social or spatial aspects of the interactions. Participant’s emotional complexity was assessed using the Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale. We found a distributed set of brain regions previously implicated in processing emotion from facial, vocal and bodily cues, in processing social intentions, and in emotional response, were sensitive to emotion conveyed by motion alone. Attention to social meaning amplified the influence of emotion in a subset of these regions. Critically, increased emotional complexity correlated with enhanced processing in a left temporal polar region implicated in detailed semantic knowledge; with a diminished effect of social attention; and with increased differentiation of brain activity between films of differing valence. Decreased emotional complexity was associated with increased activity in regions of pre-motor cortex. Thus, neural coding of emotion in semantic vs action systems varies as a function of emotional complexity, helping reconcile puzzling inconsistencies in neuropsychological investigations of emotion recognition.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute (NMHRI)
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Uncontrolled Keywords: embodiment; emotion; empathy; functional magnetic resonance imaging
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 1749-5016
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2022 09:07

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