Article

Tuning the developing brain to social signals of emotion

Department of Psychology, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.
Nature Reviews Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 31.43). 01/2009; 10(1):37-47. DOI: 10.1038/nrn2554
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Humans in different cultures develop a similar capacity to recognize the emotional signals of diverse facial expressions. This capacity is mediated by a brain network that involves emotion-related brain circuits and higher-level visual-representation areas. Recent studies suggest that the key components of this network begin to emerge early in life. The studies also suggest that initial biases in emotion-related brain circuits and the early coupling of these circuits and cortical perceptual areas provide a foundation for a rapid acquisition of representations of those facial features that denote specific emotions.

Full-text preview

Available from: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  • Source
    • "Face processing, or the ability to extract information such as emotional expression, group membership, and identity from a face, is a prototypical perceptual function. Soon after birth, infants demonstrate attentional orienting toward faces, facial features like eyes, and displays of biologically based movement (Simion et al., 2008; Leppanen and Nelson, 2009; McKone et al., 2012; Senju et al., 2013; Bidet-Ildei et al., 2014). Directing attention to the eyes may be a congenital feature as even infants of blind parents, for whom eyes contain no inherent social information, tend to focus on the eyes (Senju et al., 2013). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Social development has been the focus of a great deal of neuroscience based research over the past decade. In this review, we focus on providing a framework for understanding how changes in facets of social development may correspond with changes in brain function. We argue that (1) distinct phases of social behavior emerge based on whether the organizing social force is the mother, peer play, peer integration, or romantic intimacy; (2) each phase is marked by a high degree of affect-driven motivation that elicits a distinct response in subcortical structures; (3) activity generated by these structures interacts with circuits in prefrontal cortex that guide executive functions, and occipital and temporal lobe circuits, which generate specific sensory and perceptual social representations. We propose that the direction, magnitude and duration of interaction among these affective, executive, and perceptual systems may relate to distinct sensitive periods across development that contribute to establishing long-term patterns of brain function and behavior.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Source
    • "Similar biases are proposed for the representation of emotional expressions (Lepp€ anen & Nelson, 2009). Humans convey emotional states not only through facial expressions but also through vocalizations as well as body motion, and consistently interpret emotions of moving agents (Atkinson, Dittrich, Gemmell, & Young, 2004; Crane & Gross, 2007; Karg, Kühnlenz, & Buss, 2010), independent of shape (McDonnell, J€ org, McHugh, Newell, & O'Sullivan, 2009). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Humans readily attribute intentionality and mental states to living and nonliving entities, a phenomenon known as anthropomorphism. Recent efforts to understand the driving forces behind anthropomorphism have focused on its motivational underpinnings. By contrast, the underlying cognitive and neu-ropsychological processes have not been considered in detail so far. The marked increase in interest in anthropomorphism and its consequences for animal welfare, conservation and even as a potential constraint in animal behaviour research call for an integrative review. We identify a set of potential cognitive mechanisms underlying the attribution of mental states to nonhuman animals using a dual process framework. We propose that mental state attributions are supported by processes evolved in the social domain, such as motor matching mechanisms and empathy, as well as by domain-general mechanisms such as inductive and causal reasoning. We conclude that the activation of these domain-specific and domain-general mechanisms depend on the type of information available to the observer, and suggest a series of hypotheses for testing the proposed model.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Animal Behaviour
  • Source
    • "However, from a developmental perspective, it is not known when in infancy this unconscious fear processing from eyes emerges. More specifically, it is unclear whether it is present before 7 months of age or, similar to the conscious perception of fearful faces (Peltola, Leppänen, Mäki, et al., 2009), only emerges around 7 months of age. In order to test between these two possibilities, we measured 5-month-old infants' ERPs in response to subliminally presented fearful and non-fearful eyes and compared these to 7-month-old infants' ERP responses from a previous study (Jessen & Grossmann, 2014). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: From early in life, emotion detection plays an important role during social interactions. Recently, 7-month-old infants have been shown to process facial signs of fear in others without conscious perception and solely on the basis of their eyes. However, it is not known whether unconscious fear processing from eyes is present before 7months of age or only emerges at around 7months. To investigate this question, we measured 5-month-old infants' event-related potentials (ERPs) in response to subliminally presented fearful and non-fearful eyes and compared these with 7-month-old infants' ERP responses from a previous study. Our ERP results revealed that only 7-month-olds, but not 5-month-olds, distinguished between fearful and non-fearful eyes. Specifically, 7-month-olds' processing of fearful eyes was reflected in early visual processes over occipital cortex and later attentional processes over frontal cortex. This suggests that, in line with prior work on the conscious detection of fearful faces, the brain processes associated with the unconscious processing of fearful eyes develop between 5 and 7months of age. More generally, these findings support the notion that emotion perception and the underlying brain processes undergo critical change during the first year of life. Therefore, the current data provide further evidence for viewing infancy as a formative period in human socioemotional functioning.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
Show more