Processing of emotional voices and their integration with emotional faces within the superior temporal sulcus.
Correct interpretation of emotional vocal information (affective prosody) and integration with visual information (emotional facial expressions) is essential for successful social interaction. Using fMRI we provide evidence for a particular sensitivity of voice-specific regions in the middle part of the superior temporal sulcus (STS) for affective prosody. Furthermore, we demonstrate by means of multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) that the spatial distribution of responses within the STS can be used to decode emotional vocal information. In a second set of fMRI experiments we investigate face sensitivity, voice sensitivity and audiovisual integration along the STS. Our results demonstrate that voice-sensitivity is located in the anterior branch of the STS while face-sensitivity is most pronounced in the posterior terminal branch. Audiovisual integration was found to be functionally located at the overlap of voice- and face-sensitivity and anatomically situated at the bifurcation of the anterior and posterior terminal ascending branches of the STS. Responses the right hemispheric STS bifurcation were found to correlate with trait emotional intelligence setting this region apart from other audiovisual integration areas (left STS bifurcation, amygdala, thalamus) and indicate a specific role of this region as an interface between emotional perception and social cognition.