Background: Empathic responses to facial cues are a main social competency. Both appraisal processes (facial emotion detection) and self-perceived empathy (empathic responsiveness) in response to emotional faces are thought to be related to empathic behavior, although no systematic analysis has been performed to assess their relationship. Objectives: The current research explored the contribution of the frontal sensorimotor system to facial detection and self-reported empathic measures by using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to produce a temporary disruption of this specific cortical site. Methods: Eighteen subjects were asked to detect facial expression of emotions (anger, fear, happiness, and neutrality) and to evaluate their empathic responsiveness to these facial cues. A 5-second rTMS (1 Hz, inhibition paradigm) pulse was delivered before the stimulus onset. Results: Error rates and response times (RTs) increased when brain activity was disrupted, specifically in response to anger and fear. Self-reported measures showed a concomitant decreased empathic response when the frontal sensorimotor system was deactivated. Conclusions: The ability to monitor emotional cues and the behavioral empathic responsiveness to emotional situations was shown to be partially compromised in the case of frontal activity disruption, highlighting the main role of the sensorimotor system for empathic social skills.
|Numero di pagine||7|
|Stato di pubblicazione||Pubblicato - 2012|
- brain activity disruption
- facial expressions
- sensorimotor system