The Language of Emotional Display

Prof. Fausto Caruana

University of Parma

DATE: 5th September 2018
TIME: 11:15 – 12:30 am
LOCATION: Centro Linguistico di Ateneo, UNIPD, Padova

A common view in affective neuroscience considers emotions as a multifaceted phenomenon constituted by independent affective and motor components. Such dualistic connotation, obtained by rephrasing the classic Darwin and James’s theories of emotion, leads to the assumption that emotional expression is controlled by motor centers involved in the production of communicative displays, whereas emotional experience depends on high-order sensory and interoceptive centers. I will show that recent electrical stimulation studies provide a different perspective. I will outline two sets of findings. First, affective experiences can be elicited also following the intracranial electrical stimulation of motor centers. Second, emotional expressions can be elicited by electrically stimulating interoceptive regions. In particular, I will focus on the effect of electrical stimulations inducing emotional displays such as laughter and smiling, or disgust, which have also a clear communicative role during face to face interactions. Echoing the original pragmatist theories of emotion, I will make a case for the notion that emotional experience emerges from the integration of sensory and motor (expressive and communicative) signals, encoded in the same functional network.

My main interest concerns the neural basis of emotional expressions and social cognition. I’m interested in the role of the insular and cingulate cortex in emotions and emotional expressions, in humans and monkeys. Among other things, I described the existence of socio-communicative and emotional fields in the ventral insula and laughter-inducing centers in the anterior cingulate cortex. Another research interest concerns the role of the mirror neuron mechanism in social cognition, including emotion recognition. My research is based on a multidisciplinary approach, based on intracranial recordings and electrical stimulations, in humans and monkeys. Human intracranial recordings/stimulations are performed thanks to the collaboration with the epilepsy surgery center Niguarda Hospital. Beside my neuroscientific interests, my major interests include the theoretical aspects of embodied cognition, social cognition, affective neuroscience and the philosophy of mind.

Caruana Fausto, “The Integration of Emotional Expression and Experience: A Pragmatist Review of Recent Evidence From Brain Stimulation”

Fausto Caruana, Pietro Avanzini, Francesca Gozzo,
Stefano Francione, Francesco Cardinale and Giacomo Rizzolatti, “Mirth and laughter elicited by electrical stimulation of the human anterior cingulate cortex”

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Unit of Neuroscience, University of Parma, Italy Unit of Philosophy, University of Parma, Italy