Somatosensory Representations Link the Perception of Emotional Expressions and Sensory Experience.
Studies of human emotion perception have linked a distributed set of brain regions to the recognition of emotion in facial, vocal, and body expressions. In particular, lesions to somatosensory cortex in the right hemisphere have been shown to impair recognition of facial and vocal expressions of emotion. Although these findings suggest that somatosensory cortex represents body states associated with distinct emotions, such as a furrowed brow or gaping jaw, functional evidence directly linking somatosensory activity and subjective experience during emotion perception is critically lacking. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and multivariate decoding techniques, we show that perceiving vocal and facial expressions of emotion yields hemodynamic activity in right somatosensory cortex that discriminates among emotion categories, exhibits somatotopic organization, and tracks self-reported sensory experience. The findings both support embodied accounts of emotion and provide mechanistic insight into how emotional expressions are capable of biasing subjective experience in those who perceive them.
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