Emotional perception can be shaped by inferences about bodily states. Here, we investigated whether exteroceptive inferences about bodily sensations in the chest area influence the perception of fearful faces. Twenty-two participants received pseudo-electrical acupuncture stimulation at three different acupoints: CV17 (chest), CV23 (chin), and PC6 (left forearm). All stimuli were delivered with corresponding visual cues, and the control condition included visual cues that did not match the stimulated body sites. After the stimulation, the participants were shown images with one of five morphed facial expressions, ranging from 100% fear to 100% disgust, and asked to classify them as fearful or disgusted. Brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging during the facial expression classification task. When the participants expected that they would receive stimulation of the chest (CV17), the ratio of fearful to non-fearful classifications decreased compared to the control condition, and brain activities within the periaqueductal gray and the default mode network decreased when they viewed fearful faces. Our findings suggest that bodily sensations around the chest, but not the other tested body parts, were selectively associated with fear perception and that altering external inferences inhibited the perception of fearful faces.
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