High-frequency rTMS stimulation improves the facial mimicry and detection responses in an empathic emotional task

Michela Balconi, Ylenia Canavesio

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaContributo a convegnopeer review


Facial expression detection and facial mimicry behavior in response to an emotional empathic task were analyzed in the present research. We supposed a “simulation mechanism” may be related to emotional face detection, and that it could be supported by prefrontal cortical structures (Balconi et al., 2011). High frequency rTMS (repeated Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) was applied to MPFC to induce an increased response to facial expression of emotions when subjects (N=16) were required to emotionally empathize with the facial stimuli. The stimulus valence was also varied (negative vs positive vs. neutral faces) to explore also the emotional content effect on empathic behavior. Autonomic (facial zygomatic and corrugator EMG subjective response) and detection (correct recognitions, CRs; RTs, response times) measures were found to be modulated by MPFC activity (Balconi and Bortolotti, 2012). Specifically, when prefrontal structures were activated (in comparison with sham effect and control site stimulation) an increased performance was observed in terms of increased CRs and reduced RTs for face recognition from one hand; of increased emotion-specific EMG response for the other hand. In fact, zygomatic muscle was more responsive in case of positive emotion (happiness), whereas corrugator activity was related to negative emotions (fear, anger, disgust). A higher effect was revealed for negative, and potentially aversive, faces in comparison respectively with positive and neutral faces. Finally, a direct correlation was found between the psychophysiological and detection measures. Taken together, these results suggest a “simulation mechanism” underlying emotion detection in an empathic situation that includes both EMG and behavioral responses (Balconi and Bortolotti, 2012). This mechanism appears to be supported and regulated by MPFC area.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)e115-e116
Numero di pagine2
RivistaClinical Neurophysiology
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2013
Evento5th International Conference on Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation - Leipzig
Durata: 19 mar 201321 mar 2013


  • Emotions
  • Empathy
  • Facial mimicry
  • rTMS


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