In the scope of the research project 298/16 - Empowering feedback connections in temporo-occipital network to boost visual perception of emotions supported by the BIAL Foundation, Sara Borgomaneri and collaborators published the paper Behavioral inhibition system sensitivity enhances motor cortex suppression when watching fearful body expressions in the journal Brain Structure & Function.
Animal studies suggest that detecting threats elicits motor freezing. Here, we used transcranial magnetic stimulation to investigate early modulations of the human primary motor cortex (M1) during the observation of emotional body postures. We found a massive inhibition of M1 reactivity selectively when participants observed fearful bodies. This freezing-like inhibition was stronger in anxious participants with higher disposition to inhibit behavior when facing potential threats. Thus, M1 response to threatening fearful body postures is influenced by personality dispositions to experience fear and anxiety. M1 inhibition may have the role of suppressing action tendencies to promote threat monitoring and, ultimately, survival.