Differential neurodynamics and connectivity in the dorsal and ventral visual pathways during perception of emotional crowds
Reading the prevailing emotion of groups of people (“crowd emotion”) is critical to understanding their overall intention and disposition. It alerts us to potential dangers, such as angry mobs or panicked crowds, giving us time to escape. A critical aspect of processing crowd emotion is that it must occur rapidly, because delays often are costly. Although knowing the timing of neural events is crucial for understanding how the brain guides behaviors using coherent signals from a glimpse of multiple faces, this information is currently lacking in the literature on face ensemble coding. Therefore, we used magnetoencephalography to examine the neurodynamics in the dorsal and ventral visual streams and the periamygdaloid cortex to compare perception of groups of faces versus individual faces. Forty-six participants compared two groups of four faces or two individual faces with varying emotional expressions and chose which group or individual they would avoid. We found that the dorsal stream was activated as early as 68 msec after the onset of stimuli containing groups of faces. In contrast, the ventral stream was activated later and predominantly for individual face stimuli. The latencies of the dorsal stream activation peaks correlated with participants’ response times for facial crowds. We also found enhanced connectivity earlier between the periamygdaloid cortex and the dorsal stream regions for crowd emotion perception. Our findings suggest that ensemble coding of facial crowds proceeds rapidly and in parallel by engaging the dorsal stream to mediate adaptive social behaviors, via a distinct route from single face perception.
Im, H.Y., Cushing, C., Ward, N., & Kveraga, K. (2021). Differential neurodynamics and connectivity in the dorsal and ventral visual pathways during perception of emotional crowds and individuals: a MEG study. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience. [PDF]