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Investigating emotion perception using expertise: A multidisciplinary approach between cognitive neuroscience and performing arts

Meletaki, V. (2022). Investigating emotion perception using expertise: A multidisciplinary approach between cognitive neuroscience and performing arts. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Dance expertise has been found to influence neural and psychophysiological responses to emotion processing, action observation and body awareness. Whether this enhanced emotion sensitivity is specific only to their familiar stimuli or can be generalised to everyday forms of emotion expression remains unclear and, so, our primary aim was to investigate the role of dance as motor and artistic expertise on facial emotion perception. The first experiment compared neural activity of dancers and non-dancers controls performing a visual emotion recognition task and provided novel supportive evidence for the dance expertise effect on the visual and somatosensory processing of facial emotion and the embodied emotion theory more generally with significant effects and interactions with group, emotion and task both on the Somatosensory and the Visual Evoked Potentials across most of our selected time windows.

Our secondary aim was to better understand how dancers perceive their own bodies and emotions exploring the effect of dance on interoceptive markers and their relation to emotion processing. For our second experiment we investigated for the first time the heart- brain interactions on dancers and controls on the same visual emotion recognition task and compared the relationships between heartbeat, visual and somatosensory evoked potentials and the interoceptive abilities between groups. No emotion or dance expertise modulation was found on Heartbeat Evoked Potentials, but dance expertise was strongly related to interoceptive abilities and Heartbeat Evoked Potential was strongly related to personality traits for both groups. The third experiment was an online pilot study comparing dancers and controls on a visual emotion discrimination task informed by the visual object recognition literature. Dance expertise was strongly related with behavioural performance, empathy and interoceptive awareness. The fourth experiment focused on the distinct embodiment signatures for different emotion and the potential influence of psychological traits on embodiment providing evidence for significantly different somatosensory processing of angry and happy facial expressions and the influence of the Somatosensory Evoked Potential of anger by the levels of alexithymia.

Our results suggest an enhanced general emotion sensitivity in dance experts beyond their motor acquired skill and are discussed in the light of the current theoretical and methodological approaches in relation to dance neuroscience, emotion perception and interoception.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Meletaki thesis 2022.pdf]
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