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Decoding of Emotional Information in Voice-Sensitive Cortices

T. Ethofer, D. Van De Ville, K. Scherer, P. Vuilleumier

Current Biology, vol. 19, no. 12, pp. 1028-1033, June 23, 2009.



The ability to correctly interpret emotional signals from others is crucial for successful social interaction. Previous neuroimaging studies showed that voice-sensitive auditory areas [1, 2, 3] activate to a broad spectrum of vocally expressed emotions more than to neutral speech melody (prosody). However, this enhanced response occurs irrespective of the specific emotion category, making it impossible to distinguish different vocal emotions with conventional analyses [4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. Here, we presented pseudowords spoken in five prosodic categories (anger, sadness, neutral, relief, joy) during event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), then employed multivariate pattern analysis [9, 10] to discriminate between these categories on the basis of the spatial response pattern within the auditory cortex. Our results demonstrate successful decoding of vocal emotions from fMRI responses in bilateral voice-sensitive areas, which could not be obtained by using averaged response amplitudes only. Pairwise comparisons showed that each category could be classified against all other alternatives, indicating for each emotion a specific spatial signature that generalized across speakers. These results demonstrate for the first time that emotional information is represented by distinct spatial patterns that can be decoded from brain activity in modality-specific cortical areas.

References

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  2. C. Kayser, T. Steudel, K. Whittingstall, M. Augath, N.K. Logothetis, C.I. Petkov, "A Voice Region in the Monkey Brain," Nature Neuroscience, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 367-374, February 10, 2008.

  3. T. Zähle, E. Geiser, K. Alter, L. Jancke, M. Meyer, "Segmental Processing in the Human Auditory Dorsal Stream," Brain Research, vol. 1220, pp. 179-190, July 18, 2008.

  4. S.A. Kotz, M. Meyer, K. Alter, M. Besson, D.Y. von Cramon, A.D. Friederici, "On the Lateralization of Emotional Prosody: An Event-Related functional MR Investigation," Brain and Language, vol. 86, no. 3, pp. 366-376, September 2003.

  5. D. Sander, G. Pourtois, S. Schwartz, M.L. Seghier, K.R. Scherer, P. Vuilleumier, D. Grandjean, "The Voices of Wrath: Brain Responses to Angry Prosody in Meaningless Speech," Nature Neuroscience, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 145-146, January 23, 2005.

  6. T. Ethofer, S. Anders, S. Wiethoff, M. Erb, C. Herbert, R. Saur, W. Grodd, D. Wildgruber, "Effects of Prosodic Emotional Intensity on Activation of Associative Auditory Cortex," NeuroReport, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 249-253, February 27, 2006.

  7. T. Ethofer, S. Wiethoff, S. Anders, B. Kreifelts, W. Grodd, D. Wildgruber, "The Voices of Seduction: Cross-Gender Effects in Processing of Erotic Prosody," Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 334-337, December 2007.

  8. S. Wiethoff, D. Wildgruber, B. Kreifelts, H. Becker, C. Herbert, W. Grodd, T. Ethofer, "Cerebral Processing of Emotional Prosody—Influence of Acoustic Parameters and Arousal," NeuroImage, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 885-893, January 15, 2008.

  9. J.-D. Haynes, G. Rees, "Decoding Mental States from Brain Activity in Humans," Nature Reviews Neuroscience, vol. 7, no. 7, pp. 523-534, July 2006.

  10. K.A. Norman, S.M. Polyn, G.J. Detre, J.V. Haxby, "Beyond Mind-Reading: Multi-Voxel Pattern Analysis of fMRI Data," Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol. 10, no. 9, pp. 424-430, September 2006.


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AUTHOR="Ethofer, T. and Van De Ville, D. and Scherer, K. and
        Vuilleumier, P.",
TITLE="Decoding of Emotional Information in Voice-Sensitive Cortices",
JOURNAL="Current Biology",
YEAR="2009",
volume="19",
number="12",
pages="1028--1033",
month="June 23,",
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