The temporal pole (TP) has been associated with diverse functions of social cognition and emotion processing. Although the underlying mechanism remains elusive, one possibility is that TP acts as domain-general hub integrating socioemotional information. To test this, 26 participants were presented with 60 empathy-evoking film clips during fMRI scanning. The film clips were preceded by a linguistic sad or neutral context and half of the clips were accompanied by sad music. In line with its hypothesized role, TP was involved in the processing of sad context and furthermore tracked participants' empathic concern. To examine the neuromodulatory impact of TP, we applied nonlinear dynamic causal modeling to a multisensory integration network from previous work consisting of superior temporal gyrus (STG), fusiform gyrus (FG), and amygdala, which was extended by an additional node in the TP. Bayesian model comparison revealed a gating of STG and TP on fusiform-amygdalar coupling and an increase of TP to FG connectivity during the integration of contextual information. Moreover, these backward projections were strengthened by emotional music. The findings indicate that during social cognition, TP integrates information from different modalities and top-down modulates lower-level perceptual areas in the ventral visual stream as a function of integration demands.
Keywords: dynamic causal modeling; emotion; empathy; fMRI; multisensory integration.
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