The somatic marker hypothesis proposes that the cortical representation of visceral signals is a crucial component of emotional processing. No previous study has investigated the information flow among brain regions that process visceral information during emotional perception. In this magnetoencephalography study of 32 healthy subjects of either sex, heartbeat-evoked responses (HERs), which reflect the cortical processing of heartbeats, were modulated by the perception of a sad face. The modulation effect was localized to the prefrontal cortices, the globus pallidus, and an interoceptive network including the right anterior insula (RAI) and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (RdACC). Importantly, our Granger causality analysis provides the first evidence for the increased flow of heartbeat information from the RAI to the RdACC during sad face perception. Moreover, using a surrogate R-peak analysis, we have shown that this HER modulation effect was time-locked to heartbeats. These findings advance the understanding of brain-body interactions during emotional processing.
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