When anger dominates the mind: Increased motor corticospinal excitability in the face of threat

Hortensius, R. , de Gelder, B. and Schutter, D.J.L.G. (2016) When anger dominates the mind: Increased motor corticospinal excitability in the face of threat. Psychophysiology, 53(9), pp. 1307-1316. (doi: 10.1111/psyp.12685) (PMID:27325519) (PMCID:PMC5113684)

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Threat demands fast and adaptive reactions that are manifested at the physiological, behavioral, and phenomenological level and are responsive to the direction of threat and its severity for the individual. Here, we investigated the effects of threat directed toward or away from the observer on motor corticospinal excitability and explicit recognition. Sixteen healthy right‐handed volunteers completed a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) task and a separate three‐alternative forced‐choice emotion recognition task. Single‐pulse TMS to the left primary motor cortex was applied to measure motor evoked potentials from the right abductor pollicis brevis in response to dynamic angry, fearful, and neutral bodily expressions with blurred faces directed toward or away from the observer. Results showed that motor corticospinal excitability increased independent of direction of anger compared with fear and neutral. In contrast, anger was better recognized when directed toward the observer compared with when directed away from the observer, while the opposite pattern was found for fear. The present results provide evidence for the differential effects of threat direction on explicit recognition and motor corticospinal excitability. In the face of threat, motor corticospinal excitability increases independently of the direction of anger, indicative of the importance of more automatic reactions to threat.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:RH and BdG were partly funded by the project TANGO. The project TANGO acknowledges the financial support of the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme within the Seventh Framework Programme for Research of the European Commission, under FET‐Open grant number 249858. BdG also received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007‐2013)/ERC grant agreement number 295673. DS was supported by an Innovational Research grant (452‐07‐012) of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). We thank J. Will for assistance in data collection.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hortensius, Dr Ruud
Authors: Hortensius, R., de Gelder, B., and Schutter, D.J.L.G.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
Journal Name:Psychophysiology
Publisher:Wiley on behalf of Society for Psychophysiological Research
ISSN (Online):1469-8986
Published Online:21 June 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Authors
First Published:First published in Psychophysiology 53(9):1307-1316
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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