The voice is a marker of a person's identity which allows individual recognition even if the person is not in sight. Listening to a voice also affords inferences about the speaker's emotional state. Both these types of personal information are encoded in characteristic acoustic feature patterns analyzed within the auditory cortex. In the present study 16 volunteers listened to pairs of non-verbal voice stimuli with happy or sad valence in two different task conditions while event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded. In an emotion matching task, participants indicated whether the expressed emotion of a target voice was congruent or incongruent with that of a (preceding) prime voice. In an identity matching task, participants indicated whether or not the prime and target voice belonged to the same person. Effects based on emotion expressed occurred earlier than those based on voice identity. Specifically, P2 (∼200 ms)-amplitudes were reduced for happy voices when primed by happy voices. Identity match effects, by contrast, did not start until around 300 ms. These results show an early task-specific emotion-based influence on the early stages of auditory sensory processing.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)