FRAL - Appel Franco-allemand en sciences humaines et sociales

Emotions in time and space: the functional role of basic emotions in reading – Emotion

Use TMS to understand teh causal link and teh time course of emotion processing in reading

Results show an activation of the anterior insula as sson as 200 ms after the onset of a word

use virtual lesions fMRI studies

1. Silva, C., Montant, M., Ponz, A., & Ziegler, J. C. (2012). Emotions in reading: disgust, empathy and the contextual learning hypothesis. Cognition, 125(2), 333-338.

2. Ponz, A., Montant, M., Liegeois-Chauvel, C., Silva, C., Braun, M., Jacobs, A. M., & Ziegler, J. C. (2013). Emotion processing in words: a test of the neural re-use hypothesis using surface and intracranial EEG. Social Cognitive and Affective Neurosciences.

Submission summary

This project aims at understanding the functional role of basic emotions in reading. The main interest of this work is in gaining deeper insights into how phylogenetically ancient brain structures that process basic emotions in all mammals (e.g., the insula) actively participate in high-level cognitive skills, such as language, that are specific to humans and mainly hosted in the most recent parts of the cortex. While a few existing brain imaging studies show associations between classic emotion brain regions and reading, such studies do not show that the processing of basic emotions occurs in the first stages of word perception and is necessary to the recognition of these words. The goal of the present study is to show that the activation of primary emotion areas in visual word recognition is early and functional. For that, we will use in both countries Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a tool that makes it possible to establish causal brain-behavior relations by disturbing the behavior of healthy participants following local and temporally precise cortical stimulation. In Germany, repetitive TMS will be combined with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to investigate the effects of focal “virtual lesions” on the activity of the whole brain (BOLD response) and on the behavioral performance of the subjects during reading. In France, single pulse TMS will be combined with ElectroEncephaloGraphy (EEG) to investigate the time course of emotional processing in word perception. The strength of the project is that it brings together experts from different fields to work on a single question, the role of basic emotions on reading. Although this is innovative and technically challenging, the high level of competence and the complementary skills of the partners make this project highly feasible. The anticipated outcomes are unique and of major interest to Psychology and Affective Neuroscience.

Project coordination


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


FU Berlin Freie Universität Berlin

Help of the ANR 219,999 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 36 Months

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