Seeing emotions in others: Improving cognitive and neuronal mechanisms of facial expression processing

Peta, Antonio (2022) Seeing emotions in others: Improving cognitive and neuronal mechanisms of facial expression processing, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Psicologia, 34 Ciclo. DOI 10.48676/unibo/amsdottorato/10180.
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In the conceptual framework of affective neuroscience, this thesis intends to advance the understanding of the plasticity mechanisms of other’s emotional facial expression representations. Chapter 1 outlines a description of the neurophysiological bases of Hebbian plasticity, reviews influential studies that adopted paired associative stimulation procedures, and introduces new lines of research where the impact of cortico-cortical paired associative stimulation protocols on higher order cognitive functions is investigated. The experiments in Chapter 2 aimed to test the modulatory influence of a perceptual-motor training, based on the execution of emotional expressions, on the subsequent emotion intensity judgements of others’ high (i.e., full visible) and low-intensity (i.e., masked) emotional expressions. As a result of the training-induced learning, participants showed a significant congruence effect, as indicated by relatively higher expression intensity ratings for the same emotion as the one that was previously trained. Interestingly, although judged as overall less emotionally intense, surgical facemasks did not prevent the emotion-specific effects of the training to occur, suggesting that covering the lower part of other’s face do not interact with the training-induced congruence effect. In Chapter 3 it was implemented a transcranial magnetic stimulation study targeting neural pathways involving re-entrant input from higher order brain regions into lower levels of the visual processing hierarchy. We focused on cortical visual networks within the temporo-occipital stream underpinning the processing of emotional faces and susceptible to plastic adaptations. Importantly, we tested the plasticity-induced effects in a state dependent manner, by administering ccPAS while presenting different facial expressions yet afferent to a specific emotion. Results indicated that the discrimination accuracy of emotion-specific expressions is enhanced following the ccPAS treatment, suggesting that a multi-coil TMS intervention might represent a suitable tool to drive brain remodeling at a neural network level, and consequently influence a specific behavior.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Peta, Antonio
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
Neuroscience Emotions Perceptual-learning Plasticity ccPAS State-dependency
Data di discussione
16 Giugno 2022

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