Processing of disgusted faces is facilitated by odor primes: A functional MRI study

Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.13). 11/2010; 53(2):746-56. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.07.012
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Facilitation of emotional face recognition is an established phenomenon for audiovisual crossmodal stimulation, but not for other sensory modalities. The present study used a crossmodal priming task to identify brain systems controlling olfactory-visual interactions during emotion processing. BOLD fMRI was acquired for 44 healthy subjects during an emotional face discrimination task preceded by an emotionally valenced odorant. Behavioral performance showed that recognition of disgusted faces was improved by the presentation of an olfactory stimulus irrespective of its emotional valence. No such facilitation was seen for other facial expressions. The neuroimaging data showed a selective default network responsivity to emotional faces which was modulated by odor condition. Among disgust faces, hypoactivations during trials preceded by odorants indicated the presence of priming effects. Consistent with studies investigating the brain systems associated with audiovisual emotional integration, activity modulations in clusters in fusiform gyrus, middle frontal and middle cingulate gyrus corresponded to the observed behavioral facilitation. Our study further shows modulation of signal in the anterior insula during trials combining negatively valenced odor and disgusted faces, suggesting a modality-specific mechanism for integration of the disgust response and olfaction. These results indicate the presence of a central network with modality-specific and -unspecific components modulating emotional face recognition.

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