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Nonlinear transduction of emotional facial expression

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Publication details

JournalVision Research
DateAccepted/In press - 9 Mar 2020
DateE-pub ahead of print - 24 Mar 2020
DatePublished (current) - May 2020
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)1-11
Early online date24/03/20
Original languageEnglish


To create neural representations of external stimuli, the brain performs a number of processing steps that transform its inputs. For fundamental attributes, such as stimulus contrast, this involves one or more nonlinearities that are believed to optimise the neural code to represent features of the natural environment. Here we ask if the same is also true of more complex stimulus dimensions, such as emotional facial expression. We report the results of three experiments combining morphed facial stimuli with electrophysiological and psychophysical methods to measure the function mapping emotional expression intensity to internal response. The results converge on a nonlinearity that accelerates over weak expressions, and then becomes shallower for stronger expressions, similar to the situation for lower level stimulus properties. We further demonstrate that the nonlinearity is not attributable to the morphing procedure used in stimulus generation.

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© 2020 Elsevier Ltd

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