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Dolensek, Nejc; Gehrlach, Daniel A.; Klein, Alexandra S. and Gogolla, Nadine (2020): Facial expressions of emotion states and their neuronal correlates in mice. In: Science, Vol. 368, No. 6486: pp. 89-94

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Understanding the neurobiological underpinnings of emotion relies on objective readouts of the emotional state of an individual, which remains a major challenge especially in animal models. We found that mice exhibit stereotyped facial expressions in response to emotionally salient events, as well as upon targeted manipulations in emotion-relevant neuronal circuits. Facial expressions were classified into distinct categories using machine learning and reflected the changing intrinsic value of the same sensory stimulus encountered under different homeostatic or affective conditions. Facial expressions revealed emotion features such as intensity, valence, and persistence. Two-photon imaging uncovered insular cortical neuron activity that correlated with specific facial expressions and may encode distinct emotions. Facial expressions thus provide a means to infer emotion states and their neuronal correlates in mice.

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