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Title: Individual differences in human emotion perception : neuroimaging, genetic and behavioural investigations
Author: Chakrabarti, B.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2007
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Expressions of emotion are by far the most frequent kind of stimuli that humans have to deal with. My dissertation investigates two key questions about perception of emotions in others: (a) Are the five basic emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, fear) different from one another in how they are perceived? (b) Do individual differences determine how we perceive these basic emotions? Individual differences are studied at two levels. At the psychological level, the studies probe if trait empathy influences emotion perception. At the genetic level, the experiments investigate if differences in certain genetic loci modulate the behavioural/physiological correlates of emotion perception. This thesis integrates findings from four techniques (functional MRI, eye-gaze tracking, galvanic skin response and psychophysics) to answer these questions. In the final section, it examines the relationship between the two levels of individual differences in a genetic association study of trait empathy in a normal population. The results from all techniques confirm the hypothesis that there are behavioural and physiological differences in the perception of different basic emotions. The nature of these differences depends on the technique used. Trait empathy was found to modulate the neural substrates of perception of each emotion differently. Additionally, it influenced galvanic skin response as well as the time taken to recognise certain emotions. At the genetic level, variation in the CNR1 gene was found to modulate the striatal response to happy but not disgust expressions. These results were supported by those from the eye gaze fixation study on a different set of participants. Finally, the genetic association study of empathy found variations in several candidate genes that contribute, in parts, to the total variance in trait empathy.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available