Crossmodal interactions in audiovisual emotion processing

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Emotion in daily life is often expressed in a multimodal fashion. Consequently emotional information from one modality can influence processing in another. In a previous fMRI study we assessed the neural correlates of audio–visual integration and found that activity in the left amygdala is significantly attenuated when a neutral stimulus is paired with an emotional one compared to conditions where emotional stimuli were present in both channels. Here we used dynamic causal modelling to investigate the effective connectivity in the neuronal network underlying this emotion presence congruence effect. Our results provided strong evidence in favor of a model family, differing only in the interhemispheric interactions. All winning models share a connection from the bilateral fusiform gyrus (FFG) into the left amygdala and a non-linear modulatory influence of bilateral posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) on these connections. This result indicates that the pSTS not only integrates multi-modal information from visual and auditory regions (as reflected in our model by significant feed-forward connections) but also gates the influence of the sensory information on the left amygdala, leading to attenuation of amygdala activity when a neutral stimulus is integrated. Moreover, we found a significant lateralization of the FFG due to stronger driving input by the stimuli (faces) into the right hemisphere, whereas such lateralization was not present for sound-driven input into the superior temporal gyrus.

In summary, our data provides further evidence for a rightward lateralization of the FFG and in particular for a key role of the pSTS in the integration and gating of audio–visual emotional information.


□ Effective connectivity was investigated in audiovisual emotion integration. □ The posterior STS not only integrates but also gates audiovisual information. □ Further support for a dominance of right fusiform gyrus in face processing.

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