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Poster C33, Friday, August 17, 10:30 am – 12:15 pm, Room 2000AB

Being in love changes brain activity during speaking

Clara Martin1,2, Ileana Quinones1, Manuel Carreiras1,2;1BCBL, 2Ikerbasque

The main goal of this study was to explore how being in love modulates brain activity during language production. We know that brain activity is modulated by social context during perception and comprehension, but there is no evidence of such modulation during language production. Here, we present the first evidence of socially-mediated brain activity during language production, by showing that brain activity during speaking varies when facing a girl/boyfriend or an unknown person. Brain activity during singing in zebra finches differs depending on the social context. In zebra finches’ brain, there is a posterior (direct) motor pathway necessary for song production and an anterior (indirect) pathway necessary for song acquisition. Interestingly, the activation of the anterior pathway varies when the male zebra finch sings facing a female (directed song) or not (undirected song; for learning and rehearsal). Thus, differential brain activity can indicate not only that a bird is singing, but also in which social context he is singing. Given the similarity of the anterior pathway (i.e., the “cortical – striatal – thalamocortical” loop) in birds and primates, we expected brain activity along this pathway to be socially-mediated in humans producing language as it is the case in birds producing songs. We created a socially-mediated language production task in which participants (N=32) had to recite a poem in the MRI scanner. They had to recite the poem 10 times while watching pictures of (1) their girl/boyfriend, (2) unknown women/men, (3) houses. In order to explore whether language production varies when facing a girl/boyfriend or another person, we compared brain activity in conditions (1) and (2). As predicted, a larger response when reciting the poem to a girl/boyfriend relative to an unknown person was found in a cortico-subcortical bilaterally distributed network. This network included a subcortical circuit linked to memory, the amygdala, OFM and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex associated to familiarity/acquaintance, the FFA linked to face perception, and the IFG, superior and middle temporal gyri associated to language processing. This study reveals for the first time that brain activity during language production varies depending on the social context (i.e., who the speaker is facing during poem recitation). Various brain regions associated to language and face processing, as well as memory and familiarity, are differentially activated depending on the person faced during language production. Thus, as it is the case in birds, differential brain activity in humans can indicate not only that a person is speaking, but also whether she is speaking to a lover or an unknown person.

Topic Area: Meaning: Prosody, Social and Emotional Processes