Acoustic and neural correlates of affect perception in screams

Screaming is an ability we share with many other primates, and which we possess long before we learn to express our affective state with speech. Previous studies focusing on fearful screams highlighted certain acoustic features, such as roughness, unexploited by speech (Arnal et al., 2015), leading to activation of the amygdala and other subcortical structures critical for danger appraisal. However, screams are not exclusively fearful; they can in fact be expressions of diverse affective states. Yet, little is known about the acoustic properties of screams arising from different situations. Specifically, how is information on motivational aspects, emotion semantics, or affective dimensions represented in scream-like expressions?

Furthermore, how might their characteristic highly salient, but perceptually unpleasant acoustic signature shape the perception of—not exclusively negative —emotive content?

This research examines the acoustical characteristics and specificities of variably intense non-speech vocalizations, a subset of which are defined as screams, and the neural correlates involved in their perception, with psychophysics and neuroimaging methods. In addition to better understand screams as a unique sound signal, this research tackles questions raised in a longstanding debate on the nature of affect and emotion and will hopefully contribute to a better understanding of human emotion communication.