University Of Tasmania
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Pictures of disgusting foods and disgusted facial expressions suppress the tongue motor cortex

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 01:48 authored by Vicario, CM, Rafal, RD, Borgomaneri, S, Paracampo, R, Kritikos, A, Avenanti, A
The tongue holds a unique role in gustatory disgust. However, it is unclear whether the tongue representation in the motor cortex (tM1) is affected by the sight of distaste-related stimuli. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in healthy humans, we recorded tongue motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) as an index of tM1 cortico-hypoglossal excitability. MEPs were recorded while participants viewed pictures associated with gustatory disgust and revulsion (i.e. rotten foods and faces expressing distaste), non-oral-related disgusting stimuli (i.e. invertebrates like worms) and control stimuli. We found that oral-related disgust pictures suppressed tM1 cortico-hypoglossal output. This tM1 suppression was predicted by interindividual differences in disgust sensitivity. No similar suppression was found for disgusting invertebrates or when MEPs were recorded from a control muscle. These findings suggest that revulsion-eliciting food pictures trigger anticipatory inhibition mechanisms, possibly preventing toxin swallowing and contamination. A similar suppression is elicited when viewing distaste expressions, suggesting vicarious motor inhibition during social perception of disgust. Our study suggests an avoidant-defensive mechanism in human cortico-hypoglossal circuits and its ‘resonant’ activation in the vicarious experience of others’ distaste. These findings support a role for the motor system in emotion-driven motor anticipation and social cognition.


Publication title

Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience








School of Psychological Sciences


Oxford University Press

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2016 The Authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in psychology