ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (3): 536-555.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.00536

• Meta-Analysis • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The neural activities of different emotion carriers and their similarities and differences: A meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging studies

LIU Juncai1, RAN Guangming1(), ZHANG Qi2   

  1. 1Department of Psychology, School of Education, China West Normal University, Nanchong 637002, China
    2College of Preschool and Primary Education, China West Normal University, Nanchong 637002, China
  • Received:2021-10-06 Online:2022-03-15 Published:2022-01-25
  • Contact: RAN Guangming


Emotion recognition has always been a hot topic in psychology. Although some studies have explored the brain mechanisms of dynamic facial expressions, dynamic bodily expressions and emotional voices, empirical studies have their own inevitable defects, which may lead to low statistical test power and effect size and inconsistent results. In addition, the existing meta-analyses of the three emotion carriers still have some deficiencies. Therefore, at present, the overall understanding of the three emotion carriers is relatively incomplete, and the commonness and differences of neural mechanisms among different emotion carriers were still poorly known. So, based on the background of high ecological validity, this study adopted the meta-analysis technique based on large-scale data synthesis method to overcome the above shortcomings. First, three separated activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analyses were used to identify the brain regions activated by each emotion pattern, and then conjunction and contrast analysis of these activation maps were used to assess common and unique neural activity between the three emotion carriers. It is the first time that meta-analysis is used to explore the brain mechanism of dynamic bodily expressions, and it is also the first time that meta-analysis is used to explore the similarities and differences of neural activity among three emotion carriers: dynamic facial expressions, dynamic bodily expressions and emotional voices, and further improves the overall understanding of the neural mechanisms of dynamic facial expressions and emotional voices by previous meta-analyses. The results of single meta-analysis showed that the brain regions of dynamic facial expressions included superior frontal gyrus (SFG), middle frontal gyrus (MFG), inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), precentral gyrus (PG), inferior parietal lobule (IPL), middle occipital gyrus (MOG), inferior occipital gyrus (IOG), fusiform gyrus (FG), superior temporal gyrus (STG), middle temporal gyrus (MTG), inferior temporal gyrus (ITG), parahippocampal gyrus (PHG), cerebellum, amygdala, lentiform nucleus (LN) and insula. Dynamic bodily expressions caused activation of the middle occipital gyrus, inferior occipital gyrus, fusiform gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus, inferior temporal gyrus, cuneus, lingual gyrus (LING), cerebellum, and parahippocampal gyrus. The activation of emotional voices was concentrated in the middle frontal gyrus, inferior frontal gyrus, precentral gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus, heschl’s gyrus (HG), insula, amygdala and caudate nucleus (CN). Conjunction analysis suggested that the left middle temporal gyrus and the right superior temporal gyrus were activated by three emotion carrier across the modalities. The results of the contrast analysis proved that the visual stimuli was more advantaged than the auditory stimuli, especially the dynamic facial expressions, the dynamic bodily expressions also played an important role. However, the emotional voices had their own uniqueness. In sum, these findings validate, support, and extend the existing neural models of the three emotion carriers, revealing a central, universal region of the emotional processing, but with each emotion carrier relying on its own reliable specific neural circuits. This study provides consistent results across studies for researchers of emotional problems, and representative reference coordinate points for future region of interest (ROI) analysis, which is conducive to propose and test hypotheses of future researches, and also is conducive to the identification and neural regulation of patients with emotional disorders. Future researches should further validate and extend these findings to explore the neural mechanisms of emotional processing at different ages and their similarities and differences. In addition, it is necessary to study the brain mechanism of each emotion type and the similarity and difference of neural activity of each emotion in different carriers in the case of sufficient data. Examining the connection of different brain regions, and the different functions of a brain region also is necessary. Meanwhile, it is essential to focus on the neural basis of dynamic bodily expressions.

Key words: emotion carriers, dynamic facial expressions, dynamic bodily expressions, emotional voices, ALE meta-analysis

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