Emotional and movement-related body postures modulate visual processing

Khatereh Borhani, Elisabetta Làdavas, Martin E. Maier, Alessio Avenanti, Caterina Bertini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human body postures convey useful information for understanding others' emotions and intentions. To investigate at which stage of visual processing emotional and movement-related information conveyed by bodies is discriminated, we examined event-related potentials elicited by laterally presented images of bodies with static postures and implied-motion body images with neutral, fearful or happy expressions. At the early stage of visual structural encoding (N190), we found a difference in the sensitivity of the two hemispheres to observed body postures. Specifically, the right hemisphere showed a N190 modulation both for the motion content (i.e. all the observed postures implying body movements elicited greater N190 amplitudes compared with static postures) and for the emotional content (i.e. fearful postures elicited the largest N190 amplitude), while the left hemisphere showed a modulation only for the motion content. In contrast, at a later stage of perceptual representation, reflecting selective attention to salient stimuli, an increased early posterior negativity was observed for fearful stimuli in both hemispheres, suggesting an enhanced processing of motivationally relevant stimuli. The observed modulations, both at the early stage of structural encoding and at the later processing stage, suggest the existence of a specialized perceptual mechanism tuned to emotion- and action-related information conveyed by human body postures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1092-1101
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 3 2014


  • Body postures
  • Early posterior negativity (EPN)
  • Emotion perception
  • N190
  • Visual structural encoding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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