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The sound of a voice: processing of acoustic features of vocal emotions in the ascending auditory pathway and higher-level cognitive systems

English title The sound of a voice: processing of acoustic features of vocal emotions in the ascending auditory pathway and higher-level cognitive systems
Applicant Frühholz Sascha
Number 146559
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Centre Interfacultaire en Sciences Affectives (CISA) Université de Genève
Institution of higher education University of Geneva - GE
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.09.2013 - 31.08.2016
Approved amount 492'727.00
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Keywords (8)

emotion; auditory system; electroencephalography; vocal affect; brain imaging; auditory perception; human voice; auditory cognition

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Die menschliche Stimme einer der Hauptkanäle der (nicht-sprachlichen) Kommunikation. Wenn Personen in emotionalen Gefühlzuständen sprechen, ändern sich die akustischen Eigenschaften der Stimme. Das neuronale auditorische System des Zuhörers entschlüsselt diese akustischen Signale auf verschiedenen Ebenen, von einer einfachen akustischen Entschlüsselung in subkortikalen Gehirnbereichen bis hin zu einer komplexeren Entschlüsselung in höheren kortikalen Gehirnsystemen.
Lay summary

Das übergeordnete Ziel dieses Forschungsprojektes ist es zu untersuchen, wie das menschliche auditorische System akustische Eigenschaften der menschlichen Stimme verarbeitet. Insbesondere soll untersucht werden, wie emotionale Stimmen auf verschiedenen Ebenen des aufsteigenden auditorischen Systems verarbeitet werden. Das aufsteigende auditorische System verarbeitet sehr basale akustische Eigenschaften von Umweltreizen, und emotionale Stimmen haben einige akustische Eigenschaften, für welche diese basalen auditorischen Strukturen sensitiv sein sollten. Wir nehmen an, dass das auditorische System sehr eng mit zwei weiteren Gehirnsystemen zusammenarbeitet. Das erste System wird als „limbisches System“ bezeichnet, welches vor allem die emotionale und soziale Bedeutung der Stimme verarbeitet. Das zweite System ist der frontale Kortex, welcher eine Unterscheidung des Wahrgenommen vornimmt, und welcher wohl die letzte Entscheidung über das Wahrgenommen trifft (z.B. ob eine ärgerliche oder eine fröhliche Stimme wahrgenommen wurde).

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext des Forschungsprojekts

Wir erwarten einen grundlegenden Erkenntnisgewinn bezüglich der Mechanismen des auditorischen Systems für die Entschlüsselung von emotionalen Botschaften aus den akustischen Eigenschaften der Stimme. Die Ergebnisse dieses Projekts haben auch einige Anwendungsbezüge. Ein Verständnis der grundlegenden Mechanismen der neuronalen Stimmverarbeitung könnte dabei helfen, die Probleme der Stimmverarbeitung von psychiatrischen oder neurologischen Patienten besser zu verstehen, um damit auch verbesserte Rehabilitationsmethoden für diese Personen zu entwickeln.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 04.12.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Amygdala and auditory cortex exhibit distinct sensitivity to relevant acoustic features of auditory emotions
Pannese Alessia, Grandjean Didier, Frühholz Sascha (2016), Amygdala and auditory cortex exhibit distinct sensitivity to relevant acoustic features of auditory emotions, in Cortex, 116.
Neural decoding of discriminative auditory object features depends on their socio-affective value
Frühholz S. van der Zwaag W. Seanz M. Belin P. Schobert A.-K. Vuilleumier P. Grandjean (2016), Neural decoding of discriminative auditory object features depends on their socio-affective value, in Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience, 1638.
Perceiving emotional expressions in others: activation likelihood estimation meta-analyses of explicit evaluation, passive perception and incidental perception of emotions
Dricu Mihai, Frühholz Sascha (2016), Perceiving emotional expressions in others: activation likelihood estimation meta-analyses of explicit evaluation, passive perception and incidental perception of emotions, in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 810.
Aggressive vocal expressions – and investigation of their underlying neural network
Klaas H.S. Frühholz S. Grandjean D. (2015), Aggressive vocal expressions – and investigation of their underlying neural network, in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 121.
Asymmetrical effects of unilateral right or left amygdala damage on auditory cortical processing of vocal emotions
Frühholz S Hofstetter C Cristinzio C Saj A Seeck M Vuilleumier P Grandjean D (2015), Asymmetrical effects of unilateral right or left amygdala damage on auditory cortical processing of vocal emotions, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 1583.
Subcortical processing in auditory communication
Pannese A. Grandjean D. Frühholz S. (2015), Subcortical processing in auditory communication, in Hearing Research, 67.
The hippocampus is an integral part of the temporal limbic system during emotional processing
Trost W. Frühholz S. (2015), The hippocampus is an integral part of the temporal limbic system during emotional processing, in Physics of Life Reviews, 87.
The role of the medial temporal limbic system in processing emotions in voice and music
Frühholz S. Trost W. Grandjean D. (2014), The role of the medial temporal limbic system in processing emotions in voice and music, in Progress in Neurobiology, 1.
Amygdala structure and core dimensions of the affective personality
Frühholz Sascha, Schlegel Katja, Grandjean Didier, Amygdala structure and core dimensions of the affective personality, in Brain Structure and Function, 1.
Whispering - the hidden side of auditory communication
Frühholz S. Trost W. Grandjean D., Whispering - the hidden side of auditory communication, in NeuroImage.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Dr. Melissa Saenz Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Manfred Hermann Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Dr. Wiestke Van der Zwaag Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Patrik Vuilleumier Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Prof. Ben Godde Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Organisation for Human Brain Mapping annual meeting Poster The behavioral and neuronal binding phenomena during visuomotor integration of emotional facial expressions 26.07.2016 Geneva, Switzerland Frühholz Sascha; Coll Sélim; Grandjean Didier Maurice; Ceravolo Leonardo;
OHBM 2016 Poster The influence of amygdala lesions on the processing of human voices and affective vocalizations 26.07.2016 Geneva, Switzerland Frühholz Sascha; Grandjean Didier Maurice;
Annual Research Forum of the Campus Biotech Poster The behavioral and neuronal binding phenomena during visuomotor integration of emotional facial expressions 10.02.2016 Geneva, Switzerland Grandjean Didier Maurice; Ceravolo Leonardo; Coll Sélim; Frühholz Sascha;
18th Annual Meeting of the Swiss Society for Neuroscience Poster Biased and unbiased perceptual decision-making on vocal emotions 27.01.2016 Lausanne, Switzerland Frühholz Sascha; Ceravolo Leonardo; Dricu Mihai; Grandjean Didier Maurice;
joint CiBM / BBL Research Day Talk given at a conference The neural dynamics underlying different types of perceptual decision-making on affective voices 15.09.2015 Geneva, Switzerland Dricu Mihai; Frühholz Sascha; Grandjean Didier Maurice; Ceravolo Leonardo;
12th Lemanic Neuroscience Annual Meeting Poster Biased and unbiased decision-making on vocal emotions 14.08.2015 Les Diablerets, Switzerland Dricu Mihai; Ceravolo Leonardo; Frühholz Sascha; Grandjean Didier Maurice;
ISRE 2015 Talk given at a conference The macro- and micro-neural network underlying the decoding of affective voices 10.07.2015 Geneva, Switzerland Frühholz Sascha;
the 21st Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping Poster The role of the inferior frontal cortex in decisions on vocal emotions 15.06.2015 Honolulu, United States of America Frühholz Sascha; Dricu Mihai; Ceravolo Leonardo; Grandjean Didier Maurice;
2nd European Society for Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience (ESCAN) meeting Talk given at a conference The macro and the micro neural network underlying the decoding of emotional cues from voices 07.05.2014 Dortmund, Germany Frühholz Sascha;


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
157409 Neurocognitive Mechanisms of Auditory Perception - Challenging The Human Auditory System at The Limits of Hearing 01.09.2015 SNSF Professorships
182135 Dynamic influences on auditory emotion recognition by modulations of vocally and musically expressed emotions 01.04.2019 Project funding
156242 Impact of gesture and conceptual metaphor dynamics on the production and perception of musical emotions 01.12.2014 Interdisciplinary projects
162720 A comparative approach of emotion categorization versus discrimination: investigation through near-infrared spectroscopy in Chimpanzee and Humans 01.11.2015 Interdisciplinary projects
165642 Integration of acoustic information and attentional processes in human emotional prosody decoding 01.04.2016 Project funding

Abstract

Affective vocal expressions are powerful means of signaling emotional states and the human brain incorporates specific brain systems to decode the affective value of perceived vocal expressions. While recent research partly advanced our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of vocal affect processing, there are still many open questions. Especially, we have no clear understanding about how these brain systems can perform a valid classification and distinction of vocal affect. This however is important for a behavioral adaption to the context. The main assumption of this project proposal is that individuals use specific acoustic features of vocal expression to make a reliable and valid distinction between different kinds of vocal affect. We first propose that this feature decoding happens at early levels of processing in the ascending auditory pathway system. We additionally propose that the cognitive and brain system utilize these features both to distinguish and to categorize different vocal expressions at higher-levels of decision-making. Both the investigation of early vocal features decoding as well as higher-level decisions on vocal affect are both highly pending issues.We propose six different experiments to investigate how low-level brain systems associated with the ascending auditory pathway are sensitive to acoustic features of perceived vocal affect, which we think provide and support a coarse discrimination of vocal affect for an immediate adaption of the behavior. We additionally aim to investigate how high-level brain systems finally perform behaviorally relevant decisions on vocal affect. The present project is divided into two major project parts. Project part 1 includes three studies to test the sensitivity to basic vocal acoustic features in the inferior colliculi, the medial geniculate body of the thalamus and in the amygdala. Project part 2 includes three studies focusing on higher-level decisions performed in inferior frontal cortex (IFC). In this second project part we specifically aim at determining to which higher-order features the IFC is most sensitive and which kind of decision the IFC performs on vocal affect to support adaptive behavior. To investigate these pending scientific questions, the present project involves several innovative parts such cutting edge techniques for high-resolution brain imaging including imaging sequences optimized for our target brain regions, the combination of different research methods, as well as newly developed experimental methods. We will use a multidisciplinary approach including affective science, experimental psychology, human neuroscience, functional brain imaging as well as new approaches of signal modeling of the acquired data. The project will considerably advance out knowledge about the sequence of feature sensitivity along the ascending auditory pathway by identifying at which level of auditory processing which kind of features are decoded from vocal affect. We will hopefully also know how our central nervous system is able to distinguish and/or categorize different kinds of vocal affect at several levels of sensory and cognitive processing related to auditory cognition. This will not only also have a strong impact for basic research in auditory neuroscience, but also for applied sciences such as automatic and machine-based emotion recognition as well as for people working with clinical populations. Actually several clinical disorders are known to be associated with impairments in vocal affect processing including an insensitivity for and aversive reactions against specific features of vocal affective expressions. Thus, the results of the present project might help to develop new treatment methods and cognitive rehabilitation strategies for vocal processing impairments of different clinical populations including autistic and anxiety disorders for example.
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