Karaoke experiment reveals neurological basis for embarrassment

April 16th, 2011 - 5:50 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr 16 (ANI): A team of scientists conducted a Karaoke experiment to find out what part of the brain is essential for embarrassment.

Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco and University of California, Berkeley, recorded people belting out an old Motown tune, and then asked them to listen to their own singing without the accompanying music.

The twist to the experiment was that most of the subjects had neurodegenerative diseases, which helped scientists identify a thumb-sized bit of tissue in the right hemisphere of the front part of the brain called the “pregenual anterior cingulate cortex” as integral to embarrassment.

The degree to which the singers were embarrassed in hearing themselves sing “My Girl” - the 1964 hit by the Temptations - depended on the integrity of this particular region.

“In healthy people, watching themselves sing elicits a considerable embarrassment reaction,” Virginia Sturm, a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF, said.

“Their blood pressure goes up, their heart rate increases, and their breathing changes,” she explained.

People who had neurological damage in the medial frontal cortex, however, responded more indifferently.

“This brain region predicted the behaviour. The smaller the region, the less embarrassed the people were,” Sturm said.

Knowing that people lose their ability to be embarrassed and which part of the brain governs that ability may suggest ways to help diagnose people with certain neurodegenerative diseases earlier.

The work is part of a larger body of work at UCSF’s Memory and Aging Center examining emotion and social behaviour in neurodegenerative diseases and searching for better ways to predict, prevent and treat them.

It has been presented at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Hawaii. (ANI)

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