Pictures of disgusting foods and disgusted facial expressions suppress the tongue motor cortex

Vicario, Carmelo M., Rafal, Robert D., Borgomaneri, Sara, Paracampo, Riccardo, Kritikos, Ada and Avenanti, Alessio (2017) Pictures of disgusting foods and disgusted facial expressions suppress the tongue motor cortex. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 12 2: 352-362. doi:10.1093/scan/nsw129

Author Vicario, Carmelo M.
Rafal, Robert D.
Borgomaneri, Sara
Paracampo, Riccardo
Kritikos, Ada
Avenanti, Alessio
Title Pictures of disgusting foods and disgusted facial expressions suppress the tongue motor cortex
Journal name Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1749-5016
Publication date 2017-02-01
Year available 2016
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1093/scan/nsw129
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 12
Issue 2
Start page 352
End page 362
Total pages 11
Place of publication Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Oxford University Press
Language eng
Subject 3205 Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
2805 Cognitive Neuroscience
Abstract The tongue holds a unique role in gustatory disgust. However, it is unclear whether the tongue representation in the motor cortex (tM1) is affected by the sight of distaste-related stimuli. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in healthy humans, we recorded tongue motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) as an index of tM1 cortico-hypoglossal excitability. MEPs were recorded while participants viewed pictures associated with gustatory disgust and revulsion (i.e. rotten foods and faces expressing distaste), non-oral-related disgusting stimuli (i.e. invertebrates like worms) and control stimuli. We found that oral-related disgust pictures suppressed tM1 cortico-hypoglossal output. This tM1 suppression was predicted by interindividual differences in disgust sensitivity. No similar suppression was found for disgusting invertebrates or when MEPs were recorded from a control muscle. These findings suggest that revulsion-eliciting food pictures trigger anticipatory inhibition mechanisms, possibly preventing toxin swallowing and contamination. A similar suppression is elicited when viewing distaste expressions, suggesting vicarious motor inhibition during social perception of disgust. Our study suggests an avoidant-defensive mechanism in human cortico-hypoglossal circuits and its ‘resonant’ activation in the vicarious experience of others’ distaste. These findings support a role for the motor system in emotion-driven motor anticipation and social cognition.
Keyword Disgust
Emotion recognition
Transcranial magnetic stimulation
Motor-evoked potentials
Tongue motor area
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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