Boosting interpersonal emotion regulation through facial imitation: functional neuroimaging foundations

Jiazheng Wang, Jiemin Yang, Zhenzhen Yang, Wei Gao, He Ming Zhang, Katherine Ji, Benjamin Klugah-Brown, Jia Jin Yuan, Bharat B. Biswal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Empathic function, which is primarily manifested by facial imitation, is believed to play a pivotal role in interpersonal emotion regulation for mood reinstatement. To explore this association and its neural substrates, we performed a questionnaire survey (study l) to identify the relationship between empathy and interpersonal emotion regulation; and a task-mode fMRI study (study 2) to explore how facial imitation, as a fundamental component of empathic processes, promotes the interpersonal emotion regulation effect. Study 1 showed that affective empathy was positively correlated with interpersonal emotion regulation. Study 2 showed smaller negative emotions in facial imitation interpersonal emotion regulation (subjects imitated experimenter's smile while followed the interpersonal emotion regulation guidance) than in normal interpersonal emotion regulation (subjects followed the interpersonal emotion regulation guidance) and Watch conditions. Mirror neural system (e.g. inferior frontal gyrus and inferior parietal lobe) and empathy network exhibited greater activations in facial imitation interpersonal emotion regulation compared with normal interpersonal emotion regulation condition. Moreover, facial imitation interpersonal emotion regulation compared with normal interpersonal emotion regulation exhibited increased functional coupling from mirror neural system to empathic and affective networks during interpersonal emotion regulation. Furthermore, the connectivity of the right orbital inferior frontal gyrus-rolandic operculum lobe mediated the association between the accuracy of facial imitation and the interpersonal emotion regulation effect. These results show that the interpersonal emotion regulation effect can be enhanced by the target's facial imitation through increased functional coupling from mirror neural system to empathic and affective neural networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberbhad402
JournalCerebral Cortex
Volume34
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Keywords

  • affective empathy
  • imitation
  • interpersonal emotion regulation (IER)
  • mirror neural system (MNS)
  • orbital IFG

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