Tuning Eye-Gaze Perception by Transitory STS Inhibition.

Saitovitch A, Popa T, Lemaitre H, Rechtman E, Lamy JC, Grévent D, Calmon R, Meunier S, Brunelle F, Samson Y, Boddaert N, Zilbovicius M.

Source : Cereb. Cortex

2017 Mar 6

Pmid / DOI: 26946130


Processing eye-gaze information is a key step to human social interaction. Neuroimaging studies have shown that superior temporal sulcus (STS) is highly implicated in eye-gaze perception. In autism, a lack of preference for the eyes, as well as anatomo-functional abnormalities within the STS, has been described. To date, there are no experimental data in humans showing whether it is possible to interfere with eye-gaze processing by modulating STS neural activity. Here, we measured eye-gaze perception before and after inhibitory transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) applied over the posterior STS (pSTS) in young healthy volunteers. Eye-gaze processing, namely overt orienting toward the eyes, was measured using eye tracking during passive visualization of social movies. Inhibition of the right pSTS led participants to look less to the eyes of characters during visualization of social movies. Such effect was specific for the eyes and was not observed after inhibition of the left pSTS nor after placebo TMS. These results indicate for the first time that interfering with the right pSTS neural activity transitorily disrupts the behavior of orienting toward the eyes and thus indirectly gaze perception, a fundamental process for human social cognition. These results could open up new perspectives in therapeutic interventions in autism.

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