Russian Researchers Propose New Approach to Studying Facial Emotion Recognition
Researchers of the HSE University and the Southern Federal University (SFedU) have tested a new method for studying the perception of facial emotional expressions. They suggest that asking subjects to recognise emotional expressions from dynamic video clips rather than static photographs can improve the accuracy of findings, eg in psychiatric and neurological studies. The paper is published in Applied Sciences.
Charles Darwin was one of the first scientists to explicitly describe facial expression in animals and its important evolutionary function. Recognising conspecifics' facial emotions helps animals adapt their behaviour to the environment. In human culture, the ability to recognise others' emotions through facial expression is essential in both interpersonal and professional contexts.
Among other methods, brain activity during perception and recognition of facial expressions is studied using event-related potentials (ERPs) of electroencephalograms (EEG).
In most such studies, subjects are asked to recognise emotions in static snapshots of human faces. A team of HSE and SFedU researchers suggest using animated facial images instead for a more realistic setup.
Using morphing technology to create a smooth transitional visual effect, the researchers produced 48 videos, each consisting of 12 frames showing a gradual change from a neutral expression to one of the basic emotions: anger, sadness, joy, disgust, surprise, or fear. As a result of using computer animation, all the videos are identical in style and duration—something that would be impossible to achieve when filming a real person.
The study involved 112 subjects, 59% men and 41% women, who watched 144 dynamic morphs made from 56 coloured, full-face photographs of four men and four women, and then named each recognised emotion verbally into a microphone.
'We have only recently started using verbal labelling of emotions into a microphone. Before this, we used to ask respondents to press one of six buttons to indicate the emotion they could see. But that setup was inconvenient: remembering which of the six buttons to press was a struggle.'
The researchers recoded the subjects' ERPs of EEG from 32 electrodes. The study participants had been assessed for speed and accuracy of facial emotion recognition and split into two groups of higher and lower performance. The method of using dynamic morphs proved to be effective for both subgroups: the expected responses were detected in the brain’s occipital and temporal lobes, the former associated with vision in general and the latter with facial recognition.
The researchers were able to estimate the reaction time (how fast an expression was recognised) and the cognitive load (allocation of brain resources) for each type of facial expression. It was found that faster accurate recognition of emotional expressions required a greater allocation of processing resources, and that subjects with lower recognition accuracy needed to allocate even more brain resources for successful performance.
'The proposed method could facilitate studies focused on abnormal processing of facial expressions – a characteristic of people with emotional disorders, such as depression and anxiety, and those with autism, schizophrenia and ADHD. These individuals tend to have a reduced ability to recognise emotions from other people's faces', notes Kosonogov.
HSE University has announced the winners of the Project Competition in Basic Science Research for Intercampus Departments. The competition, which the university is organising for the first time, will provide funding to 10 research teams working on five topics. Four of the winning projects will be implemented by new research departments formed as a result of the competition.
An international group of scientists and medical specialists, including HSE researchers, examined the role played by microRNA (miRNA) and long non-coding RNAs on the progression of ovarian cancer. Having analysed more than a hundred tumour samples, they found that miRNA can prevent cell mutation while long non-coding RNAs have the opposite effect of enabling such mutations. These findings can help design new drugs which act by regulating miRNA concentrations. The study was published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
In early September, the HSE University Faculty of Computer Science hosted the international conference Computer Methods of Cognitome Analysis. The event was organised by the International Laboratory of Algebraic Topology and Its Applications at the faculty.
Academics’ work week became even longer during the pandemic. This is true of researchers from different countries, independently of their gender and specialisation, an international research team with HSE University participation found. Their working time during the pandemic was 51 hours compared to the usual 40. The increased number of working hours per week seems to have become part of the new academic norm. The results of the study were published in the Plos One journal.
Researchers of the HSE International Laboratory of Statistical and Computational Genomics together with their international colleagues have proposed a new statistical method for analysing population admixture that makes it possible to determine the time and number of migration waves more accurately. The history of Colombians and Mexicans (descendants of Native Americans, Spaniards and Africans) features two episodes of admixture that occurred about 350 and 200 years ago for Mexicans and 400 and 100 years ago for Colombians. The results were published in the Plos Genetics journal.
Researchers from the HSE Laboratory for the Neurobiological Foundations of Cognitive Development, Alexey Kotov, Ivan Aslanov and Yulia Sudorgina, have experimentally proved that categorical labels, including nonexistent medical terms, significantly affect people's judgments, activating semantic knowledge in memory. The study has been published in the Frontiers in Psychology journal.
Scholars from Moscow and Vladivostok Join Efforts to Study Institutes and Preferences in Economic Behaviour
Applications from HSE departments for the ‘Mirror Laboratories’ open project competition are open until May 20. One of the ‘mirror laboratories’ successfully operating today was created as a result of a similar competition in 2020 by economists from HSE University and Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) to study institutes and preferences in economic behaviour. Alexis Belianin, Head of the HSE International Laboratory for Experimental and Behavioural Economics, talked about how peers from Moscow and Vladivostok collaborate.
Psychologists from HSE University have joined their peers from Ekaterinburg to look into the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of Russian doctors. They found that medical staff are suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression more often than before. The results of the study were published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
The laboratory will be led by Robert Sandlersky, a specialist in energy and mass transfer and the study of other properties of landscapes via satellite imagery and Senior Research Fellow at the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The HSE News Service spoke to Robert about the laboratory’s future activities.
Neurobiologists from HSE University and the RAS Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology proved that the human brain unconsciously distinguishes between even very similar sound signals during passive listening. The study was published in Neuropsychologia.