Brain Signatures of Voice Perception

Sala 8.2.39, FCUL, Lisboa

Por Ana P. Pinheiro (Faculty of Psychology, University of Lisbon, Alameda da Universidade, Lisbon,

Abstract: The human voice is plausibly the most important sound category in our social landscape. Studies in the last decades confirmed the special status of vocal sounds in the brain: regions of the temporal cortex present high selectivity for voices compared to non-vocal sounds. The existing studies also show that identity, affect and speech types of information are processed by partially segregated brain pathways. Despite the increased number of studies probing voice perception, its neurofunctional correlates remain elusive.

Given the complex and dynamic nature of vocal emotional perception, these operations may be better understood in a multi-methods approach including neuroimaging, electrophysiological, and behavioral data. By putting together evidence from behavior (reaction time; accuracy), electroencephalography (ERP and EEG time-frequency analysis), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) evidence, our research team aims to unravel the dynamic neurocognitive operations that take place when we listen to the voice. The data presented will show specifically neural differences in the processing of emotional vs. neutral vocal information, and will emphasize the rapid operation of these mechanisms. The observation of neural differences in the processing of emotional vs. neutral information makes sense in light of the biological relevance that a quick and reliable detection of affective signals has in understanding the environment and the behavioral intentions of others. Implications of these findings for the comprehension of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, will be discussed.

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