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Scientific article
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Neural substrates of social emotion regulation: a FMRI study on imitation and expressive suppression to dynamic facial signals

Published inFrontiers in psychology, vol. 4, 95
Publication date2013
Abstract

Emotion regulation is crucial for successfully engaging in social interactions. Yet, little is known about the neural mechanisms controlling behavioral responses to emotional expressions perceived in the face of other people, which constitute a key element of interpersonal communication. Here, we investigated brain systems involved in social emotion perception and regulation, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 20 healthy participants. The latter saw dynamic facial expressions of either happiness or sadness, and were asked to either imitate the expression or to suppress any expression on their own face (in addition to a gender judgment control task). fMRI results revealed higher activity in regions associated with emotion (e.g., the insula), motor function (e.g., motor cortex), and theory of mind (e.g., [pre]cuneus) during imitation. Activity in dorsal cingulate cortex was also increased during imitation, possibly reflecting greater action monitoring or conflict with own feeling states. In addition, premotor regions were more strongly activated during both imitation and suppression, suggesting a recruitment of motor control for both the production and inhibition of emotion expressions. Expressive suppression (eSUP) produced increases in dorsolateral and lateral prefrontal cortex typically related to cognitive control. These results suggest that voluntary imitation and eSUP modulate brain responses to emotional signals perceived from faces, by up- and down-regulating activity in distributed subcortical and cortical networks that are particularly involved in emotion, action monitoring, and cognitive control.

Citation (ISO format)
VRTICKA, Pascal et al. Neural substrates of social emotion regulation: a FMRI study on imitation and expressive suppression to dynamic facial signals. In: Frontiers in psychology, 2013, vol. 4, p. 95. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00095
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ISSN of the journal1664-1078
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