Publications by authors named "Roberto Ravera"

6 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Evidence for Anger Saliency during the Recognition of Chimeric Facial Expressions of Emotions in Underage Ebola Survivors.

Front Psychol 2017 23;8:1026. Epub 2017 Jun 23.

Department of Medicine and Surgery, Unit of Neuroscience, University of ParmaParma, Italy.

One of the crucial features defining basic emotions and their prototypical facial expressions is their value for survival. Childhood traumatic experiences affect the effective recognition of facial expressions of negative emotions, normally allowing the recruitment of adequate behavioral responses to environmental threats. Specifically, anger becomes an extraordinarily salient stimulus unbalancing victims' recognition of negative emotions. Despite the plethora of studies on this topic, to date, it is not clear whether this phenomenon reflects an overall response tendency toward anger recognition or a selective proneness to the salience of specific facial expressive cues of anger after trauma exposure. To address this issue, a group of underage Sierra Leonean Ebola virus disease survivors (mean age 15.40 years, SE 0.35; years of schooling 8.8 years, SE 0.46; 14 males) and a control group (mean age 14.55, SE 0.30; years of schooling 8.07 years, SE 0.30, 15 males) performed a forced-choice chimeric facial expressions recognition task. The chimeric facial expressions were obtained pairing upper and lower half faces of two different negative emotions (selected from anger, fear and sadness for a total of six different combinations). Overall, results showed that upper facial expressive cues were more salient than lower facial expressive cues. This priority was lost among Ebola virus disease survivors for the chimeric facial expressions of anger. In this case, differently from controls, Ebola virus disease survivors recognized anger regardless of the upper or lower position of the facial expressive cues of this emotion. The present results demonstrate that victims' performance in the recognition of the facial expression of anger does not reflect an overall response tendency toward anger recognition, but rather the specific greater salience of facial expressive cues of anger. Furthermore, the present results show that traumatic experiences deeply modify the perceptual analysis of philogenetically old behavioral patterns like the facial expressions of emotions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01026DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5482096PMC
June 2017

Less Empathic and More Reactive: The Different Impact of Childhood Maltreatment on Facial Mimicry and Vagal Regulation.

PLoS One 2016;11(9):e0163853. Epub 2016 Sep 29.

Department of Neuroscience, University of Parma, Parma, Italy.

Facial mimicry and vagal regulation represent two crucial physiological responses to others' facial expressions of emotions. Facial mimicry, defined as the automatic, rapid and congruent electromyographic activation to others' facial expressions, is implicated in empathy, emotional reciprocity and emotions recognition. Vagal regulation, quantified by the computation of Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA), exemplifies the autonomic adaptation to contingent social cues. Although it has been demonstrated that childhood maltreatment induces alterations in the processing of the facial expression of emotions, both at an explicit and implicit level, the effects of maltreatment on children's facial mimicry and vagal regulation in response to facial expressions of emotions remain unknown. The purpose of the present study was to fill this gap, involving 24 street-children (maltreated group) and 20 age-matched controls (control group). We recorded their spontaneous facial electromyographic activations of corrugator and zygomaticus muscles and RSA responses during the visualization of the facial expressions of anger, fear, joy and sadness. Results demonstrated a different impact of childhood maltreatment on facial mimicry and vagal regulation. Maltreated children did not show the typical positive-negative modulation of corrugator mimicry. Furthermore, when only negative facial expressions were considered, maltreated children demonstrated lower corrugator mimicry than controls. With respect to vagal regulation, whereas maltreated children manifested the expected and functional inverse correlation between RSA value at rest and RSA response to angry facial expressions, controls did not. These results describe an early and divergent functional adaptation to hostile environment of the two investigated physiological mechanisms. On the one side, maltreatment leads to the suppression of the spontaneous facial mimicry normally concurring to empathic understanding of others' emotions. On the other side, maltreatment forces the precocious development of the functional synchronization between vagal regulation and threatening social cues facilitating the recruitment of fight-or-flight defensive behavioral strategies.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0163853PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5042550PMC
September 2016

Impact of Childhood Maltreatment on the Recognition of Facial Expressions of Emotions.

PLoS One 2015 28;10(10):e0141732. Epub 2015 Oct 28.

Department of Neuroscience, University of Parma, Parma, Italy.

The development of the explicit recognition of facial expressions of emotions can be affected by childhood maltreatment experiences. A previous study demonstrated the existence of an explicit recognition bias for angry facial expressions among a population of adolescent Sierra Leonean street-boys exposed to high levels of maltreatment. In the present study, the recognition bias for angry facial expressions was investigated in a younger population of street-children and age-matched controls. Participants performed a forced-choice facial expressions recognition task. Recognition bias was measured as participants' tendency to over-attribute anger label to other negative facial expressions. Participants' heart rate was assessed and related to their behavioral performance, as index of their stress-related physiological responses. Results demonstrated the presence of a recognition bias for angry facial expressions among street-children, also pinpointing a similar, although significantly less pronounced, tendency among controls. Participants' performance was controlled for age, cognitive and educational levels and for naming skills. None of these variables influenced the recognition bias for angry facial expressions. Differently, a significant effect of heart rate on participants' tendency to use anger label was evidenced. Taken together, these results suggest that childhood exposure to maltreatment experiences amplifies children's "pre-existing bias" for anger labeling in forced-choice emotion recognition task. Moreover, they strengthen the thesis according to which the recognition bias for angry facial expressions is a manifestation of a functional adaptive mechanism that tunes victim's perceptive and attentive focus on salient environmental social stimuli.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0141732PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4624998PMC
June 2016

When age matters: differences in facial mimicry and autonomic responses to peers' emotions in teenagers and adults.

PLoS One 2014 22;9(10):e110763. Epub 2014 Oct 22.

Department of Neuroscience, Unit of Physiology, University of Parma, Parma, Italy.

Age-group membership effects on explicit emotional facial expressions recognition have been widely demonstrated. In this study we investigated whether Age-group membership could also affect implicit physiological responses, as facial mimicry and autonomic regulation, to observation of emotional facial expressions. To this aim, facial Electromyography (EMG) and Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA) were recorded from teenager and adult participants during the observation of facial expressions performed by teenager and adult models. Results highlighted that teenagers exhibited greater facial EMG responses to peers' facial expressions, whereas adults showed higher RSA-responses to adult facial expressions. The different physiological modalities through which young and adults respond to peers' emotional expressions are likely to reflect two different ways to engage in social interactions with coetaneous. Findings confirmed that age is an important and powerful social feature that modulates interpersonal interactions by influencing low-level physiological responses.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0110763PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4206508PMC
July 2015

Impact of civil war on emotion recognition: the denial of sadness in Sierra Leone.

Front Psychol 2013 3;4:523. Epub 2013 Sep 3.

Section of Physiology, Department of Neuroscience, University of Parma Parma, Italy.

Studies of children with atypical emotional experience demonstrate that childhood exposure to high levels of hostility and threat biases emotion perception. This study investigates emotion processing, in former child soldiers and non-combatant civilians. All participants have experienced prolonged violence exposure during childhood. The study, carried out in Sierra Leone, aimed to examine the effects of exposure to and forced participation in acts of extreme violence on the emotion processing of young adults war survivors. A total of 76 young, male adults (38 former child soldier survivors and 38 civilian survivors) were tested in order to assess participants' ability to identify four different facial emotion expressions from photographs and movies. Both groups were able to recognize facial expressions of emotion. However, despite their general ability to correctly identify facial emotions, participants showed a significant response bias in their recognition of sadness. Both former soldiers and civilians made more errors in identifying expressions of sadness than in the other three emotions and when mislabeling sadness participants most often described it as anger. Conversely, when making erroneous identifications of other emotions, participants were most likely to label the expressed emotion as sadness. In addition, while for three of the four emotions participants were better able to make a correct identification the greater the intensity of the expression, this pattern was not observed for sadness. During movies presentation the recognition of sadness was significantly worse for soldiers. While both former child soldiers and civilians were found to be able to identify facial emotions, a significant response bias in their attribution of negative emotions was observed. Such bias was particularly pronounced in former child soldiers. These findings point to a pervasive long-lasting effect of childhood exposure to violence on emotion processing in later life.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00523DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3760028PMC
September 2013

When early experiences build a wall to others' emotions: an electrophysiological and autonomic study.

PLoS One 2013 10;8(4):e61004. Epub 2013 Apr 10.

Dept. of Neuroscience, Section of Physiology, University of Parma, Parma, Italy.

Facial expression of emotions is a powerful vehicle for communicating information about others' emotional states and it normally induces facial mimicry in the observers. The aim of this study was to investigate if early aversive experiences could interfere with emotion recognition, facial mimicry, and with the autonomic regulation of social behaviors. We conducted a facial emotion recognition task in a group of "street-boys" and in an age-matched control group. We recorded facial electromyography (EMG), a marker of facial mimicry, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), an index of the recruitment of autonomic system promoting social behaviors and predisposition, in response to the observation of facial expressions of emotions. Results showed an over-attribution of anger, and reduced EMG responses during the observation of both positive and negative expressions only among street-boys. Street-boys also showed lower RSA after observation of facial expressions and ineffective RSA suppression during presentation of non-threatening expressions. Our findings suggest that early aversive experiences alter not only emotion recognition but also facial mimicry of emotions. These deficits affect the autonomic regulation of social behaviors inducing lower social predisposition after the visualization of facial expressions and an ineffective recruitment of defensive behavior in response to non-threatening expressions.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0061004PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3622660PMC
October 2013
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