Background: The neural bases of emotion are most often studied using short non-natural stimuli and assessed using correlational methods. Here we use a brain perturbation approach to make causal inferences between brain activity and emotional reaction to a long segment of dance.
Objective/hypothesis: We aimed to apply offline rTMS over the brain regions involved in subjective emotional ratings to explore whether this could change the appreciation of a dance performance.
Methods: We first used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify regions correlated with fluctuating emotional rating during a 4-min dance performance, looking at both positive and negative correlation. Identified regions were further characterized using meta-data interrogation. Low-frequency repetitive TMS was applied over the most important node in a different group of participants prior to them rating the same dance performance as in the fMRI session.
Results: FMRI revealed a negative correlation between subjective emotional judgement and activity in the right posterior parietal cortex. This region is commonly involved in cognitive tasks and not in emotional task. Parietal rTMS had no effect on the general affective response, but it significantly (P<0.05 using exact t-statistics) enhanced the rating of the moments eliciting the highest positive judgements.
Conclusion: These results establish a direct link between posterior parietal cortex activity and emotional reaction to dance. They can be interpreted in the framework of competition between resources allocated to emotion and resources allocated to cognitive functions. They highlight potential use of brain stimulation in neuro-æsthetic investigations.
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