Crossmodal integration of emotional information from face and voice in the infant brain

Authors

  • Tobias Grossmann,

    1. Department of Neuropsychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
    2. Junior Scientist Group on Cultural Ontogeny, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
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  • Tricia Striano,

    1. Department of Neuropsychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
    2. Junior Scientist Group on Cultural Ontogeny, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
    3. Neurocognition and Development Group, Center for Advanced Studies, University of Leipzig, Germany
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  • Angela D. Friederici

    1. Department of Neuropsychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
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Address for correspondence: Tobias Grossmann, Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, School of Psychology, Birkbeck College, 32 Torrington Square, London WC1E 7JL, UK; e-mail: t.grossmann@bbk.ac.uk

Abstract

We examined 7-month-old infants’ processing of emotionally congruent and incongruent face–voice pairs using ERP measures. Infants watched facial expressions (happy or angry) and, after a delay of 400 ms, heard a word spoken with a prosody that was either emotionally congruent or incongruent with the face being presented. The ERP data revealed that the amplitude of a negative component and a subsequent positive component in infants’ ERPs varied as a function of crossmodal emotional congruity. An emotionally incongruent prosody elicited a larger negative component in infants’ ERPs than did an emotionally congruent prosody. Conversely, the amplitude of infants’ positive component was larger to emotionally congruent than to incongruent prosody. Previous work has shown that an attenuation of the negative component and an enhancement of the later positive component in infants’ ERPs reflect the recognition of an item. Thus, the current findings suggest that 7-month-olds integrate emotional information across modalities and recognize common affect in the face and voice.

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