Integrative processing of touch and affect in social perception: An fMRI study

Sjoerd J H Ebisch, Anatolia Salone, Giovanni Martinotti, Leonardo Carlucci, Dante Mantini, Mauro G. Perrucci, Aristide Saggino, Gian Luca Romani, Massimo Di Giannantonio, Georg Northoff, Vittorio Gallese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Social perception commonly employs multiple sources of information. The present study aimed at investigating the integrative processing of affective social signals. Task- related and task-free functional magnetic resonance imaging was performed in 26 healthy adult participants during a social perception task concerning dynamic visual stimuli simultaneously depicting facial expressions of emotion and tactile sensations that could be either congruent or incongruent. Confounding effects due to affective valence, inhibitory top-down influences, cross-modal integration, and conflict processing were minimized. The results showed that the perception of congruent, compared to incongruent stimuli, elicited enhanced neural activity in a set of brain regions including left amygdala, bilateral posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), and left superior parietal cortex. These congruency effects did not differ as a function of emotion or sensation. A complementary task-related functional interaction analysis preliminarily suggested that amygdala activity depended on previous processing stages in fusiform gyrus and PCC. The findings provide support for the integrative processing of social information about others’ feelings from manifold bodily sources (sensory-affective information) in amygdala and PCC. Given that the congruent stimuli were also judged as being more self-related and more familiar in terms of personal experience in an independent sample of participants, we speculate that such integrative processing might be mediated by the linking of external stimuli with self-experience. Finally, the prediction of task-related responses in amygdala by intrinsic functional connectivity between amygdala and PCC during a task-free state implies a neuro-functional basis for an individual predisposition for the integrative processing of social stimulus content.

Original languageEnglish
Article number209
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberMAY2016
Publication statusPublished - May 10 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotion
  • Facial expression
  • FMRI
  • Social perception
  • Somatosensory
  • Tactile sensation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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