Publications by authors named "Giuseppina Porciello"

26 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Body image dissatisfaction and interoceptive sensibility significantly predict postpartum depressive symptoms.

J Affect Disord 2022 08 21;311:239-246. Epub 2022 May 21.

Department of Psychology, Sapienza University, Rome, Italy. Electronic address:

Background: During pregnancy women experience rapid and unique changes in body weight, shape and size over a relatively short time period. While research focused on the role of external bodily modifications during pregnancy, research on internal bodily variations is missing.

Methods: In a longitudinal study, we recruited healthy pregnant women and measured whether and how depressive symptoms, body image dissatisfaction and the subjective tendency to focus on one's own internal bodily sensations, i.e., interoceptive sensibility, changed during pregnancy and postpartum. Pregnant women filled online self-report questionnaires during pregnancy (i.e. second and third trimester) and after (i.e. six weeks) the delivery, including the Body Areas Satisfaction Scale, the Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness, and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.

Results: While depressive symptoms remained stable in the peripartum, body image dissatisfaction increased in the postpartum compared to the pregnancy period, and interoceptive sensibility increased over pregnancy. Findings showed that the increase of body dissatisfaction through the peripartum and the levels of interoceptive sensibility in the early phase of pregnancy predicted depressive symptoms in the postpartum.

Limitations: Interoception was evaluated as a subjective measure (i.e., interoceptive sensibility). Future studies may include objective measures of interoceptive accuracy and interoceptive awareness.

Conclusions: The current study supports the importance of body image dissatisfaction and interoceptive sensibility in the development of postpartum depressive symptoms. Future studies need to investigate if interventions aimed to increase interoceptive sensibility might be useful in preventing depressive symptoms and identify the mechanisms that can lead to these changes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2022.05.109DOI Listing
August 2022

Interoceptive influences on the production of self-serving lies in reputation risk conditions.

Int J Psychophysiol 2022 Jul 10;177:34-42. Epub 2022 Apr 10.

IRCCS, Santa Lucia Foundation, 00142 Rome, Italy; Sapienza University of Rome and Center for Life Nano- and Neuro-Science, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Viale Regina Elena, 291, 00161 Rome, Italy.

Bodily signals influence high-order cognitive and emotional processes, including social decision making. Here, we examined whether individual differences in the capacity to read signals from inside (interoception) and outside the body (exteroception) predicted participants' (dis)honesty. Deceptive behavior was measured in a card game where participants were tempted to lie to another person for financial gain in two conditions, i.e., under high vs. low risk of being seen by the other player (reputation risk). Participants completed the Heartbeat Counting Task (cardiac interoception) and a variation of the Body-Scaled Action Task (visual exteroception). Overall, when participants believed their reputation was at risk (i.e., the other player knew they lied) they told significantly less egoistic lies compared to when their choices were secret. This effect was significantly moderated by cardiac interoception. While low interoceptive participants told less egoistic lies when their reputation was at risk, high cardiac interoceptive participants did not change their behavior depending on the reputation risk conditions. We also found that cardiac interoception and visual exteroception did not correlate. Together our findings suggest that although integrated, interoception and exteroception constitute distinct facets of corporal awareness, and that high cardiac interoception shapes moral behavior by making people less concerned about their social reputation during spontaneous lies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2022.04.001DOI Listing
July 2022

Conspiracy mentality and political orientation across 26 countries.

Nat Hum Behav 2022 Mar 17;6(3):392-403. Epub 2022 Jan 17.

Universidade de Brasília, Brasília, Brazil.

People differ in their general tendency to endorse conspiracy theories (that is, conspiracy mentality). Previous research yielded inconsistent findings on the relationship between conspiracy mentality and political orientation, showing a greater conspiracy mentality either among the political right (a linear relation) or amongst both the left and right extremes (a curvilinear relation). We revisited this relationship across two studies spanning 26 countries (combined N = 104,253) and found overall evidence for both linear and quadratic relations, albeit small and heterogeneous across countries. We also observed stronger support for conspiracy mentality among voters of opposition parties (that is, those deprived of political control). Nonetheless, the quadratic effect of political orientation remained significant when adjusting for political control deprivation. We conclude that conspiracy mentality is associated with extreme left- and especially extreme right-wing beliefs, and that this non-linear relation may be strengthened by, but is not reducible to, deprivation of political control.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41562-021-01258-7DOI Listing
March 2022

The inside of me: interoceptive constraints on the concept of self in neuroscience and clinical psychology.

Psychol Res 2021 May 28. Epub 2021 May 28.

Sapienza, Università di Roma and [email protected], Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Rome, Italy.

Humans are unique in their ability to think about themselves and carry a more or less clear notion of who they are in their mind. Here we review recent evidence suggesting that the birth, maintenance, and loss of the abstract concept of 'self' is deeply tied to interoception, the sense of internal physiological signals. Interoception influences multiple facets of the self-concept, cutting across its material, social, moral, and agentive components. Overall, we argue that interoception contributes to the stability of the self-concept over time, unifying its layers and constraining the degree to which it is susceptible to external influences. Hence, the core features of the self-concept are those that correlate more with inner bodily states. We discuss the implications that this may have for theories of embodied cognition as well as for the understanding of psychiatric disorders in which the concept of self appears fragmented or loose. Finally, we formulate some empirical predictions that could be tested in future studies to shed further light on this emerging field.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00426-021-01477-7DOI Listing
May 2021

Face individual identity recognition: a potential endophenotype in autism.

Mol Autism 2020 10 21;11(1):81. Epub 2020 Oct 21.

Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Background: Face individual identity recognition skill is heritable and independent of intellectual ability. Difficulties in face individual identity recognition are present in autistic individuals and their family members and are possibly linked to oxytocin polymorphisms in families with an autistic child. While it is reported that developmental prosopagnosia (i.e., impaired face identity recognition) occurs in 2-3% of the general population, no prosopagnosia prevalence estimate is available for autism. Furthermore, an autism within-group approach has not been reported towards characterizing impaired face memory and to investigate its possible links to social and communication difficulties.

Methods: The present study estimated the prevalence of prosopagnosia in 80 autistic adults with no intellectual disability, investigated its cognitive characteristics and links to autism symptoms' severity, personality traits, and mental state understanding from the eye region by using standardized tests and questionnaires.

Results: More than one third of autistic participants showed prosopagnosia. Their face memory skill was not associated with their symptom's severity, empathy, alexithymia, or general intelligence. Face identity recognition was instead linked to mental state recognition from the eye region only in autistic individuals who had prosopagnosia, and this relationship did not depend on participants' basic face perception skills. Importantly, we found that autistic participants were not aware of their face memory skills.

Limitations: We did not test an epidemiological sample, and additional work is necessary to establish whether these results generalize to the entire autism spectrum.

Conclusions: Impaired face individual identity recognition meets the criteria to be a potential endophenotype in autism. In the future, testing for face memory could be used to stratify autistic individuals into genetically meaningful subgroups and be translatable to autism animal models.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13229-020-00371-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7576748PMC
October 2020

Blood pressure-related hypoalgesia: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

J Hypertens 2020 08;38(8):1420-1435

Department of Psychology, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome.

Objective: Spontaneous or experimentally induced high blood pressure (BP) is associated with reduced pain perception, known as BP-related hypoalgesia. Despite its clinical implications, such as the interference with early detection of myocardial infarction in 'at risk' groups, the size of the association between high BP and pain has not yet been quantified. Moreover, the distinct association between high BP and physiological or psychological components of pain has not yet been considered so far. The aim of this study was to overcome this gap by performing separate meta-analyses on nociceptive response versus quantifiable perceptual measures of pain in relation to high BP.

Methods: PubMed and Web of Knowledge databases were searched for English language studies conducted in humans. Fifty-nine studies were eligible for the analyses. Pooled effect sizes (Hedges' g) were compared. Random effect models were used. Results show that higher BP is significantly associated with lower nociceptive response (g = 0.38; k = 6) and reduced pain perception, assessed by quantifiable measures (g = 0.48; k = 59).

Results: The association between BP and pain perception, derived from highly heterogeneous studies, was characterized by significant publication bias. BP assessment, pain assessment, site of pain stimulation, percentage of female participants in the sample, and control for potential confounders were significant moderators.

Conclusion: Current meta-analytic results confirm the presence of BP-related hypoalgesia and point towards the need for a better understanding of its underlying mechanisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/HJH.0000000000002427DOI Listing
August 2020

Oculomotor behavior tracks the effect of ideological priming on deception.

Sci Rep 2020 06 12;10(1):9555. Epub 2020 Jun 12.

Department of Psychology, "Sapienza" University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

The decision to lie to another person involves a conflict between one's own and others' interest. Political ideology may foster self-promoting or self-transcending values and thus may balance or fuel self vs. other related conflicts. Here, we explored in politically non-aligned participants whether oculomotor behavior may index the influence on moral decision-making of prime stimuli related to left and right-wing ideologies. We presented pictures of Italian politicians and ideological words in a paradigm where participants could lie to opponents with high vs. low socio-economic status to obtain a monetary reward. Results show that left-wing words decreased self-gain lies and increased other-gain ones. Oculomotor behavior revealed that gazing longer at politicians' pictures led participants to look longer at opponent's status-related information than at game's outcome-related information before the decision. This, in turn, caused participants to lie less to low status opponents. Moreover, after lying, participants averted their gaze from high status opponents and maintained it towards low status ones. Our results offer novel evidence that ideological priming influences moral decision-making and suggest that oculomotor behavior may provide crucial insights on how this process takes place.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-66151-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7293254PMC
June 2020

Freedom to act enhances the sense of agency, while movement and goal-related prediction errors reduce it.

Psychol Res 2021 Apr 31;85(3):987-1004. Epub 2020 Mar 31.

Department of Psychology, Sapienza University of Rome and [email protected], Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Viale Regina Elena, 291, 00161, Rome, Italy.

The Sense of Agency (SoA) is the experience of controlling one's movements and their external consequences. Accumulating evidence suggests that freedom to act enhances SoA, while prediction errors are known to reduce it. Here, we investigated if prediction errors related to movement or to the achievement of the goal of the action exert the same influence on SoA during free and cued actions. Participants pressed a freely chosen or cued-colored button, while observing a virtual hand moving in the same or in the opposite direction-i.e., movement-related prediction error-and pressing the selected or a different color-i.e., goal-related prediction error. To investigate implicit and explicit components of SoA, we collected indirect (i.e., Synchrony Judgments) and direct (i.e., Judgments of Causation) measures. We found that participants judged virtual actions as more synchronous when they were free to act. Additionally, movement-related prediction errors reduced both perceived synchrony and judgments of causation, while goal-related prediction errors impaired exclusively the latter. Our results suggest that freedom to act enhances SoA and that movement and goal-related prediction errors lead to an equivalent reduction of SoA in free and cued actions. Our results also show that the influence of freedom to act and goal achievement may be limited, respectively, to implicit and explicit SoA, while movement information may affect both components. These findings provide support to recent theories that view SoA as a multifaceted construct, by showing that different action cues may uniquely influence the feeling of control.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00426-020-01319-yDOI Listing
April 2021

Characterizing Body Image Distortion and Bodily Self-Plasticity in Anorexia Nervosa via Visuo-Tactile Stimulation in Virtual Reality.

J Clin Med 2019 Dec 30;9(1). Epub 2019 Dec 30.

IRCCS, Santa Lucia Foundation, 00142 Rome, Italy.

We combined virtual reality and multisensory bodily illusion with the aim to characterize and reduce the perceptual (body overestimation) and the cognitive-emotional (body dissatisfaction) components of body image distortion (BID) in anorexia nervosa (AN). For each participant (20 anorexics, 20 healthy controls) we built personalized avatars that reproduced their own body size, shape, and verisimilar increases and losses of their original weight. Body overestimation and dissatisfaction were measured by asking participants to choose the avatar that best resembled their real and ideal body. Results show higher body dissatisfaction in AN, caused by the desire of a thinner body, and no body-size overestimation. Interpersonal multisensory stimulation (IMS) was then applied on the avatar reproducing participant's perceived body, and on the two avatars which reproduced increases and losses of 15% of it, all presented with a first-person perspective (1PP). Embodiment was stronger after synchronous IMS in both groups, but did not reduce BID in participants with AN. Interestingly, anorexics reported more negative emotions after embodying the fattest avatar, which scaled with symptoms severity. Overall, our findings suggest that the cognitive-emotional, more than the perceptual component of BID is severely altered in AN and that perspective (1PP vs. 3PP) from which a body is evaluated may play a crucial role. Future research and clinical trials might take advantage of virtual reality to reduce the emotional distress related to body dissatisfaction.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/jcm9010098DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019698PMC
December 2019

The "embreathment" illusion highlights the role of breathing in corporeal awareness.

J Neurophysiol 2020 01 4;123(1):420-427. Epub 2019 Dec 4.

Sapienza, Università di Roma and Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Center for Life Nano Science, Rome, Italy.

Recent theories posit that physiological signals contribute to corporeal awareness, the basic feeling that one has a body (body ownership) that acts according to one's will (body agency) and occupies a specific position (body location). Combining physiological recordings with immersive virtual reality, we found that an ecological mapping of real respiratory patterns onto a virtual body illusorily changes corporeal awareness. This new way of inducing a respiratory bodily illusion, called "embreathment," revealed that breathing is almost as important as visual appearance for inducing body ownership and more important than any other cue for body agency. These effects were moderated by individual levels of interoception, as assessed through a standard heartbeat-counting task and a new "pneumoception" task. By showing that respiratory, visual, and spatial signals exert a specific and weighted influence on the fundamental feeling that one is an embodied agent, we pave the way for a comprehensive hierarchical model of corporeal awareness. Our body is the only object we sense from the inside; however, it is unclear how much inner physiology contributes to the global sensation of having a body and controlling it. We combine respiration recordings with immersive virtual reality and find that making a virtual body breathe like the real body gives an illusory sense of ownership and agency over the avatar, elucidating the role of a key physiological process like breathing in corporeal awareness.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1152/jn.00617.2019DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6985859PMC
January 2020

The enfacement illusion boosts facial mimicry.

Cortex 2020 02 25;123:113-123. Epub 2019 Oct 25.

Department of Psychology, Sapienza, University of Rome, Rome, Italy; IRCCS Fondazione Santa Lucia, Rome, Italy.

Facial mimicry, the automatic imitation of another person's emotion, is a mechanism underlying emotion recognition and emotional contagion, a phylogenetically conserved form of empathy that precedes later developing empathic skills. We tested the possibility to increase facial mimicry by blurring self-other distinction via the enfacement illusion. To do so we delivered synchronous, versus asynchronous, visuo-tactile interpersonal multisensory stimulation on the observer and expresser's faces and then recorded surface facial EMG while participants observed videos of happy and sad facial expressions displayed by the expresser. Our results show that synchronous visuo-tactile stimulation can indeed enhance facial mimicry and that this depends on participants' baseline tendency to mimic.. Our findings could set the basis for developing novel interventions for conditions characterized by reduced empathic and emotion recognition skills, including autism and schizophrenia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2019.10.001DOI Listing
February 2020

Bound to the group and blinded by the leader: ideological leader-follower dynamics in a trust economic game.

R Soc Open Sci 2019 Sep 25;6(9):182023. Epub 2019 Sep 25.

IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy.

Understanding the dynamics of trustworthiness in ideological contexts could influence human societies, affect electoral campaigns and ultimately impact democracy. We tested trust behaviour towards political leaders in a sample of 121 opposing/supporting voters assigned as trustors in an iterative trust game (TG). In two experiments, a famous Italian conservative leader (i.e. Silvio Berlusconi) or a famous non-politician were used as trustees in a predefined un/trustworthy TG, while trustors believed that mathematical algorithms reproduced trustee's real behaviour. Results revealed that depending on the group, voters either relied on the situation and adjusted to the behaviour of the out-group leader (in our case left-wing voters), or on their disposition for group-loyalty with respect for authority, thus failing to adjust to the behaviour of the in-group leader (in our case right-wing voters). Our findings suggest that: (i) complex voter-leader relations in politics are reflected in the simple trustor-trustee financial interactions from behavioural economics, and (ii) being bound to one's group and one's leader may affect the trust economic decisions of the followers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.182023DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6774964PMC
September 2019

An interoceptive illusion of effort induced by false heart-rate feedback.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2019 07 24;116(28):13897-13902. Epub 2019 Jun 24.

Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, National Research Council, 00185, Rome, Italy

Interoception, or the sense of the internal state of the body, is key to the adaptive regulation of our physiological needs. Recent theories contextualize interception within a predictive coding framework, according to which the brain both estimates and controls homeostatic and physiological variables, such as hunger, thirst, and effort levels, by orchestrating sensory, proprioceptive, and interoceptive signals from inside the body. This framework suggests that providing false interoceptive feedback may induce misperceptions of physiological variables, or "interoceptive illusions." Here we ask whether it is possible to produce an illusory perception of effort by giving participants false acoustic feedback about their heart-rate frequency during an effortful cycling task. We found that participants reported higher levels of perceived effort when their heart-rate feedback was faster compared with when they cycled at the same level of intensity with a veridical feedback. However, participants did not report lower effort when their heart-rate feedback was slower, which is reassuring, given that failing to notice one's own effort is dangerous in ecologically valid conditions. Our results demonstrate that false cardiac feedback can produce interoceptive illusions. Furthermore, our results pave the way for novel experimental manipulations that use illusions to study interoceptive processing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1821032116DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6628799PMC
July 2019

Left Threatened by Right: Political Intergroup Bias in the Contemporary Italian Context.

Front Psychol 2019 24;10:26. Epub 2019 Jan 24.

Department of Psychology, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

Using different evaluation targets (i.e., politicians' pictures, ideological words, items referring to features attributed to political ingroup/outgroup) we characterized the intergroup bias among political groups in the Italian context (Study 1-2-3) and tested a model that may account for the bias itself (Study 3). For all evaluation targets, left-wing participants - compared to right-wing participants - showed a greater intergroup bias, expressing more negative emotions toward the outgroup. The process was influenced by a greater perceived threat of the outgroup. Conversely, right-wing participants expressed the bias only when presented with ideological words. Our results provide a detailed description of how intergroup bias in Italy is differently expressed by the two ideological groups depending on the targets used to represent the political counterpart. Moreover, the results show that the stronger bias expressed by left-wing participants is driven by perceived threat of the outgroup.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00026DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6353823PMC
January 2019

Violation of expectations about movement and goal achievement leads to Sense of Agency reduction.

Exp Brain Res 2018 Jul 16;236(7):2123-2135. Epub 2018 May 16.

Department of Psychology, "Sapienza" University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

The control of one's own movements and of their impact on the external world generates a feeling of control referred to as Sense of Agency (SoA). SoA is experienced when actions match predictions and is reduced by unpredicted events. The present study investigated the contribution of monitoring two fundamental components of action-movement execution and goal achievement-that have been most often explored separately in previous research. We have devised a new paradigm in which participants performed goal-directed actions while viewing an avatar's hand in a mixed-reality scenario. The hand performed either the same action or a different one, simultaneously or after various delays. Movement of the virtual finger and goal attainment were manipulated, so that they could match or conflict with the participants' expectations. We collected judgments of correspondence (an explicit index of SoA that overcomes the tendency to over-attribute actions to oneself) by asking participants if the observed action was synchronous or not with their action. In keeping with previous studies, we found that monitoring both movement execution and goal attainment is relevant for SoA. Moreover, we expanded previous findings by showing that movement information may be a more constant source of SoA modulation than goal information. Indeed, an incongruent movement impaired SoA irrespective of delay duration, while a missed goal did so only when delays were short. Our novel paradigm allowed us to simultaneously manipulate multiple action features, a characteristic that makes it suitable for investigating the contribution of different sub-components of action in modulating SoA in healthy and clinical populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00221-018-5286-3DOI Listing
July 2018

How the stomach and the brain work together at rest.

Elife 2018 05 4;7. Epub 2018 May 4.

Department of Psychology, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

Low-frequency electrical waves in the stomach seem to be synchronised with the activity of a newly discovered resting-state network in the human brain.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.37009DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5935480PMC
May 2018

The 'Enfacement' illusion: A window on the plasticity of the self.

Cortex 2018 07 9;104:261-275. Epub 2018 Feb 9.

Dipartimento di Psicologia, Sapienza, Università degli studi di Roma, Rome, Italy; IRCCS Fondazione Santa Lucia, Rome, Italy. Electronic address:

Understanding how self-representation is built, maintained and updated across the lifespan is a fundamental challenge for cognitive psychology and neuroscience. Studies demonstrate that the detection of body-related multisensory congruency builds bodily and facial self-representations that are crucial to developing self-recognition. Studies showing that the bodily self is more malleable than previously believed were mainly concerned with full-bodies and non-facial body parts. Crucially, however, intriguing recent evidence indicates that simple experimental manipulations could even affect self-face representation that has long been considered a stable construct impervious to change. In this review, we discuss how Interpersonal Multisensory Stimulation (IMS) paradigms can be used to temporarily induce Enfacement, i.e., the subjective illusion of looking at oneself in the mirror when in fact looking at another person's face. We show that Enfacement is a subtle but robust phenomenon occurring in a variety of experimental conditions and assessed by multiple explicit and implicit measures. We critically discuss recent findings on i) the role of sensory extero/proprio-ceptive (visual, tactile, and motor) and interoceptive (cardiac) signals in self-face plasticity, ii) the importance of multisensory integration mechanisms for the bodily self, and iii) the neural network related to IMS-driven changes in self-other face processing, within the predictive coding theoretical framework.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2018.01.007DOI Listing
July 2018

The bright and the dark sides of motor simulation.

Neuropsychologia 2017 Oct 19;105:92-100. Epub 2017 May 19.

Department of Psychology, "Sapienza University of Rome", Italy; IRCCS, Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy. Electronic address:

While the acquisition of knowledge about the sensory, emotional, and motor states of others has long been thought to derive from abstract inferential operations, recent theories based on neuroscientific and psychological models emphasize that motor simulation is essential to a variety of complex functions ranging from the monitoring of one's own performance to the understanding of others' actions, and matching self and others' states to optimize social interactions. In this review, we discuss evidence that simulating the actions of others has both bright and dark sides. On the one hand, we show that simulation can aid the anticipation and prediction of errors in the actions of others (e.g., in the case of competitive sports), as well as the establishment of social bonds (e.g., in the case of mimicry). On the other hand, based on findings from our and other research groups, we describe specific circumstances in which simulating the actions of others is detrimental to performance (e.g., when we automatically follow the gaze of a person who is actually trying to deceive us). Finally, we show how the presence of a shared goal between agents (such as in joint actions) maximizes the cost benefit of motor simulation, suggesting that the top-down modulation of this process is vital for adapting in a social environment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.05.020DOI Listing
October 2017

Commentary: Attentional control and the self: The Self Attention Network (SAN).

Front Psychol 2016 3;7:1701. Epub 2016 Nov 3.

Social and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, IRCCS Fondazione Santa LuciaRome, Italy; Department of Psychology of Developmental and Socialization Processes, "Sapienza," University of RomeRome, Italy.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01701DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5093136PMC
November 2016

Not That Heart-Stopping After All: Visuo-Cardiac Synchrony Does Not Boost Self-Face Attribution.

PLoS One 2016 19;11(8):e0160498. Epub 2016 Aug 19.

Department of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

Recent experimental evidence and theoretical models suggest that an integration of exteroceptive and interoceptive signals underlies several key aspects of the bodily self. While it has been shown that self-attribution of both the hand and the full-body are altered by conflicting extero-exteroceptive (e.g. visuo-tactile) and extero-interoceptive (e.g. visuo-cardiac) information, no study has thus far investigated whether self-attribution of the face might be altered by visuo-cardiac stimulation similarly to visuo-tactile stimulation. In three independent groups of participants we presented ambiguous (i.e. morphed with a stranger's face) self-faces flashing synchronously or asynchronously with the participants' heartbeat. We then measured the subjective percentages of self-face attribution of morphed stimuli. To control for a potential effect of visuo-cardiac synchrony on familiarity, a task assessing the attribution of a familiar face was introduced. Moreover, different durations of visuo-cardiac flashing and different degrees of asynchronicity were used. Based on previous studies showing that synchronous visuo-cardiac stimulation generally increases self-attribution of the full-body and the hand, and that synchronous visuo-tactile stimulation increases self-face attribution, we predicted higher self-face attribution during the synchronous visuo-cardiac flashing of the morphed stimuli. In contrast to this hypothesis, the results showed no difference between synchronous and asynchronous stimulation on self-face attribution in any of the three studies. We thus conclude that visuo-cardiac synchrony does not boost self-attribution of the face as it does that of hand and full-body.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0160498PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4991789PMC
July 2017

Fortunes and misfortunes of political leaders reflected in the eyes of their electors.

Exp Brain Res 2016 Mar 25;234(3):733-40. Epub 2015 Nov 25.

Department of Psychology, Sapienza, University of Rome, Via dei Marsi, 78, 00185, Rome, Italy.

Gaze-following is a pivotal social behaviour that, although largely automatic, is permeable to high-order variables like political affiliation. A few years ago we reported that the gaze of Italian right-wing voters was selectively captured by the gaze of their leader Silvio Berlusconi. This effect was particularly evident in voters who saw themselves as similar to Berlusconi. Two years later, we were able to run the present follow-up study because Berlusconi's popularity had drastically dropped due to sex and political scandals, and he resigned from office. In a representative subsample of our original group, we investigated whether perceived similarity and gaze-following reflected Berlusconi's loss in popularity. We were also able to test the same hypothesis in an independent group of right-wing voters when their leader, Renata Polverini, resigned as Governor of 'Regione Lazio' due to political scandals. Our results show that the leaders' fall in popularity paralleled the reduction of their gaze's attracting power, as well as the decrease in similarity perceived by their voters. The less similar right-wing voters felt to their leader, the less they followed his/her gaze. Thus, the present experimental findings suggest that gaze-following can be modulated by complex situational and dispositional factors such as leader's popularity and voter-leader perceived similarity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00221-015-4496-1DOI Listing
March 2016

"Atypical touch perception in MTS may derive from an abnormally plastic self-representation".

Cogn Neurosci 2015 29;6(2-3):139-41. Epub 2015 Jun 29.

a Dipartimento di Psicologia , Sapienza Università degli Studi di Roma , Rome , Italy.

Mirror Touch Synesthetes (MTSs) feel touch while they observe others being touched. According to the authors, two complementary theoretical frameworks, the Threshold Theory and the Self-Other Theory, explain Mirror Touch Synesthesia (MTS). Based on the behavioral evidence that in MTSs the mere observation of touch is sufficient to elicit self-other merging (i.e., self-representation changes), a condition that in non-MTSs just elicits self-other sharing (i.e., mirroring activity without self-other blurring), and on the rTPJ anatomical alterations in MTS, we argue that MTS may derive from an abnormally plastic self-representation and atypical multisensory integrative mechanisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17588928.2015.1057486DOI Listing
May 2016

Interpersonal multisensory stimulation reduces the overwhelming distracting power of self-gaze: psychophysical evidence for 'engazement'.

Sci Rep 2014 Oct 20;4:6669. Epub 2014 Oct 20.

1] Department of Psychology, "Sapienza" University of Rome, Via dei Marsi 78, I-00185 Rome, Italy [2] Social and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation, Via Ardeatina 306, I-00179 Rome, Italy.

One's own face and gaze are never seen directly but only in a mirror. Yet, these stimuli capture attention more powerfully than others' face and gaze, suggesting the self is special for brain and behavior. Synchronous touches felt on one's own and seen on the face of others induce the sensation of including others in one's own face (enfacement). We demonstrate that enfacement may also reduce the overwhelming distracting power of self-gaze. This effect, hereafter called 'engazement', depends on the perceived physical attractiveness and inner beauty of the pair partner. Thus, we highlight for the first time the close link between enfacement and engazement by showing that changes of the self-face representation induced by facial visuo-tactile stimulation extend to gaze following, a separate process likely underpinned by different neural substrates. Moreover, although gaze following is a largely automatic, engazement is penetrable to the influence of social variables, such as positive interpersonal perception.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep06669DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5377579PMC
October 2014

Self-identification with another person's face: the time relevant role of multimodal brain areas in the enfacement illusion.

J Neurophysiol 2015 Apr 2;113(7):1959-62. Epub 2014 Jul 2.

Dipartimento di Psicologia, Università degli Studi di Roma "Sapienza," Rome, Italy; Laboratorio di Neuroscienze Sociali, IRCCS Fondazione Santa Lucia, Rome, Italy;

The illusory subjective experience of looking at one's own face while in fact looking at another person's face can surprisingly be induced by simple synchronized visuotactile stimulation of the two faces. A recent study (Apps MA, Tajadura-Jiménez A, Sereno M, Blanke O, Tsakiris M. Cereb Cortex. First published August 20, 2013; doi:10.1093/cercor/bht199) investigated for the first time the role of visual unimodal and temporoparietal multimodal brain areas in the enfacement illusion and suggested a model in which multisensory mechanisms are crucial to construct and update self-face representation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1152/jn.00872.2013DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4416605PMC
April 2015

rTMS-induced virtual lesion of the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) alters the control of reflexive shifts of social attention triggered by pointing hands.

Neuropsychologia 2014 Jul 9;59:148-56. Epub 2014 May 9.

Department of Psychology, "Sapienza", University of Rome, Via dei Marsi 78, I-00185 Rome, Italy; IRCCS, Fondazione Santa Lucia, Via Ardeatina 306, I-00179 Rome, Italy. Electronic address:

In highly social groups like human and non-human primates, gaze and pointing cues are fundamentally important for directing the attention of conspecifics. Although neuroimaging studies indicate that shifts of attention triggered by observation of social cues activate the onlookers׳ fronto-parietal cortices, information on whether these regions play a causative role in orienting and re-orienting of social attention is lacking. To advance our understanding of this, we used event-related repetitive dual pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation to interfere with neural activity in the right frontal eye field (rFEF) and posterior parietal cortex (rPPC). This procedure allowed us to explore how inhibiting rFEF and rPPC influences shifts of attention triggered by the observation of body-related (gaze and hand) and non body-related (arrow) directional distractors. Participants were asked to perform a leftward or rightward pointing movement according to the color change of a central imperative signal while ignoring a distractor, which was either a gaze, a pointing hand or an arrow. Stimulation of rPPC in a region supposedly linked to attentional re-orienting and to planning and execution of upper limb movements increased the reflexive tendency to follow distracting pointing hands but not oriented gaze or arrows. These findings suggest that inhibition of cortical structures that control attentional shifts triggered by social stimuli brings forth an increase of the cost of attentional re-orienting. Moreover, our results provide the first causative evidence that reflexive social attention in humans may be coded according to body-part-centered frames of reference.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.04.017DOI Listing
July 2014

Enfacing others but only if they are nice to you.

Front Behav Neurosci 2014 28;8:102. Epub 2014 Mar 28.

IRCCS Fondazione Santa Lucia Rome, Italy ; Social and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Sapienza University of Rome Rome, Italy.

Experiencing tactile facial stimulation while seeing synchronous stimuli on the face of another individual induces "enfacement," i.e., the subjective illusory experience of ownership of the other's face (explicit measure) and the attribution of the others' facial features to one's own face (implicit measure). Here we expanded previous knowledge by investigating if the tendency to include the other into one's own representation is influenced by positive or negative interpersonal attitudes derived either from consolidated socio-cultural stereotypes or from newly acquired, short-term individual interactions with a specific person. To this aim, we tested in Caucasian white participants the enfacement with a white and a black confederate, before and after an experimental procedure inducing a positive or negative perception of each of them. The results show that the subjective experience of enfacement with in- and out-group others before and after the manipulation is similar. The bias in attributing other's facial features to one's own face after synchronous stroking was, instead, dependent on whether the other person was positively perceived, independently of his/her ethnicity. Thus, we show that realistic positive face-to-face interactions are more effective than consolidated racial biases in influencing the strength of self-attribution of another persons' facial features in the context of multisensory illusions. Results suggest that positive interpersonal interactions might powerfully change the plasticity of self-other representations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00102DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3975105PMC
April 2014
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