Human brain structure predicts individual differences in preconscious evaluation of facial dominance and trustworthiness.

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 2015 May 4;10(5):690-9. Epub 2014 Sep 4.

Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, UK, UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17 Queen Square, London, UK, Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Pevensey 1, Brighton, UK, Interacting Minds Center, Aarhus University, and Centre of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, UK, UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17 Queen Square, London, UK, Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Pevensey 1, Brighton, UK, Interacting Minds Center, Aarhus University, and Centre of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.

Social cues conveyed by the human face, such as eye gaze direction, are evaluated even before they are consciously perceived. While there is substantial individual variability in such evaluation, its neural basis is unknown. Here we asked whether individual differences in preconscious evaluation of social face traits were associated with local variability in brain structure. Adult human participants (n = 36) monocularly viewed faces varying in dominance and trustworthiness, which were suppressed from awareness by a dynamic noise pattern shown to the other eye. The time taken for faces to emerge from suppression and become visible (t2e) was used as a measure of potency in competing for visual awareness. Both dominant and untrustworthy faces resulted in slower t2e than neutral faces, with substantial individual variability in these effects. Individual differences in t2e were correlated with gray matter volume in right insula for dominant faces, and with gray matter volume in medial prefrontal cortex, right temporoparietal junction and bilateral fusiform face area for untrustworthy faces. Thus, individual differences in preconscious social processing can be predicted from local brain structure, and separable correlates for facial dominance and untrustworthiness suggest distinct mechanisms of preconscious processing.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsu103DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4420744PMC
May 2015
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