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From facial mimicry to emotional empathy: A role for norepinephrine?

Harrison NA, Morgan R, Critchley HD - Soc Neurosci (2010)

Bottom Line: Two hours after drug subjects viewed and rated facial expressions of sadness, anger, and happiness, while corrugator, zygomatic, and mentalis EMG were recorded.Trait emotional empathy was measured using the Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale.Although influencing emotion perception, norepinephrine does not influence emotional facial mimicry or its relationship with trait empathy.

Affiliation: University of Sussex, Falmer, UK. n.harrison@bsms.ac.uk

ABSTRACT

Tendency to mimic others' emotional facial expressions predicts empathy and may represent a physiological marker of psychopathy. Anatomical connectivity between amygdala, cingulate motor cortex (M3, M4), and facial nucleus demonstrates a potential neuroanatomical substrate for mimicry, though pharmacological influences are largely unknown. Norepinephrine modulation selectively impairs negative emotion recognition, reflecting a potential role in processing empathy-eliciting facial expressions. We examined effects of single doses of propranolol (beta-adrenoceptor blocker) and reboxetine (selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) on automatic facial mimicry of sadness, anger, and happiness, and the relationship between mimicry and empathy. Forty-five healthy volunteers were randomized to 40 mg propranolol or 4 mg reboxetine. Two hours after drug subjects viewed and rated facial expressions of sadness, anger, and happiness, while corrugator, zygomatic, and mentalis EMG were recorded. Trait emotional empathy was measured using the Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale. EMG confirmed emotion-specific mimicry and the relationship between corrugator mimicry and empathy. Norepinephrine modulation did not alter mimicry to any expression or influence the relationship between mimicry and empathy. Corrugator but not zygomaticus mimicry predicts trait empathy, consistent with greater anatomical connectivity between amygdala and M3 coding upper facial muscle representations. Although influencing emotion perception, norepinephrine does not influence emotional facial mimicry or its relationship with trait empathy.

Mean corrugator (upper) and zygomaticus (lower) responses to observation of happy, sad, and angry facial expressions. The area in gray denotes the period of EMG responses used in all subsequent analyses.
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Figure 1: Mean corrugator (upper) and zygomaticus (lower) responses to observation of happy, sad, and angry facial expressions. The area in gray denotes the period of EMG responses used in all subsequent analyses.

Mentions: Time course of EMG activity in CS and ZM muscles to each observed emotional facial expression is shown in Figure 1. There was no significant main effect of facial muscle, F(1) = 3.57, p = ns, or norepinephric manipulation, F(1) = 0.10, p = ns, on EMG responses, although similarly to our analysis of arousal and valence ratings we did observe a significant main effect of emotional expression, F(2) = 3.41, p < .04.

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From facial mimicry to emotional empathy: A role for norepinephrine?

Harrison NA, Morgan R, Critchley HD - Soc Neurosci (2010)

Mean corrugator (upper) and zygomaticus (lower) responses to observation of happy, sad, and angry facial expressions. The area in gray denotes the period of EMG responses used in all subsequent analyses.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Figure 1: Mean corrugator (upper) and zygomaticus (lower) responses to observation of happy, sad, and angry facial expressions. The area in gray denotes the period of EMG responses used in all subsequent analyses.
Mentions: Time course of EMG activity in CS and ZM muscles to each observed emotional facial expression is shown in Figure 1. There was no significant main effect of facial muscle, F(1) = 3.57, p = ns, or norepinephric manipulation, F(1) = 0.10, p = ns, on EMG responses, although similarly to our analysis of arousal and valence ratings we did observe a significant main effect of emotional expression, F(2) = 3.41, p < .04.

Bottom Line: Two hours after drug subjects viewed and rated facial expressions of sadness, anger, and happiness, while corrugator, zygomatic, and mentalis EMG were recorded.Trait emotional empathy was measured using the Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale.Although influencing emotion perception, norepinephrine does not influence emotional facial mimicry or its relationship with trait empathy.

Affiliation: University of Sussex, Falmer, UK. n.harrison@bsms.ac.uk

ABSTRACT

Tendency to mimic others' emotional facial expressions predicts empathy and may represent a physiological marker of psychopathy. Anatomical connectivity between amygdala, cingulate motor cortex (M3, M4), and facial nucleus demonstrates a potential neuroanatomical substrate for mimicry, though pharmacological influences are largely unknown. Norepinephrine modulation selectively impairs negative emotion recognition, reflecting a potential role in processing empathy-eliciting facial expressions. We examined effects of single doses of propranolol (beta-adrenoceptor blocker) and reboxetine (selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) on automatic facial mimicry of sadness, anger, and happiness, and the relationship between mimicry and empathy. Forty-five healthy volunteers were randomized to 40 mg propranolol or 4 mg reboxetine. Two hours after drug subjects viewed and rated facial expressions of sadness, anger, and happiness, while corrugator, zygomatic, and mentalis EMG were recorded. Trait emotional empathy was measured using the Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale. EMG confirmed emotion-specific mimicry and the relationship between corrugator mimicry and empathy. Norepinephrine modulation did not alter mimicry to any expression or influence the relationship between mimicry and empathy. Corrugator but not zygomaticus mimicry predicts trait empathy, consistent with greater anatomical connectivity between amygdala and M3 coding upper facial muscle representations. Although influencing emotion perception, norepinephrine does not influence emotional facial mimicry or its relationship with trait empathy.

View Similar Images In: Results  - Collection
View Article: PubMed Central -  PubMed
Show All Figures - Show MeSH
getmorefigures.php?pmc=2913325&rFormat=json&query=null&req=5