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Poster E17, Saturday, August 18, 3:00 – 4:45 pm, Room 2000AB

Investigating non-verbal vocal communication with fNIRS

Addison Niemeyer1, Sophie Scott1;1Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London

Human perception of non-verbal stimuli is the root of basic behavioural patterns. Sounds that convey the underlying emotions of happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust are integral parts of communication. These sounds may be produced spontaneously, or intentionally in a social situation. A prime example of these sounds is laughter, which is universally recognised and allows for a rare cross-culture investigation of social interactions (Sauter et al., 2010). Examining how humans accurately detect other’s emotions by these sounds is necessary to develop a better understanding of social behavioural disorders, such as autism spectrum condition (McGettigan et al., 2013; Hudenko et al., 2013). Previous studies have used fMRI and EEG to study non-verbal communication, but these methods are limited in that they don’t allow for natural movement and have less temporal and spatial accuracy which acts as a significant drawback. This experiment investigates the correlation between a participant’s conscious perception and neural process in the detection and processing of social and spontaneous sounds. The imaging method fNIRS (functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy) is used to record neuronal activation patterns of non-verbal vocal communication, and this data is mapped on to anatomical scan specific to the individual (Villringer et al., 1993). Previous tests have indicated that the regions of interest are valid candidates for fNIRS because of their accessible location on the cortex, such as the supplementary motor area, bilateral premotor cortex and right inferior frontal gyrus (Lavan et al., 2017). Results from this test are then compared with the participant’s conscious perception of the sounds, demonstrated by a concurrent survey. Using fNIRS to replicate the perception portion of the experiment that was previously completed with fMRI allows for validation of previous results, with a 19-fold difference in temporal accuracy. Due to the nature of fNIRS, it would be possible to examine the production of laughter, which is extremely difficult to analyse using fMRI because it often involves head movement. Advantages of this method in studying social behaviour include the ability to be used in more naturalistic settings and with an increased variety of clinical populations.

Topic Area: Perception: Auditory