AFFECTIVE NEUROSCIENCE OF CONSCIOUS AND NONCONSCIOUS PERCEPTION
How does our brain recognize emotions and how it instantiates appropriate reactions? Are emotions processed nonconsciously and nevertheless influence our intentional and conscious actions? What is the relation between emotion, awareness and attention? Our Lab approaches these themes from the perspective of affective neuroscience and neuropsychology. We study emotion perception with and without awareness and/or attention in both healthy subjects and neuropsychological patients with blindsight and hemispatial neglect. We study recognition of facial as well as bodily expressions of emotions, thanks to our collaborative work with Beatrice de Gelder. Peripheral changes characteristic of emotions are tracked (pupil dilation, spontaneous facial reactions) and related to functional changes in brain activity and connectivity.
VISION AND AWARENESS
Visual awareness emerges from mutual interactions amidst interconnected brain areas in the visual system and beyond. But which information can be processed and used proficiently to guide actions when visual awareness is lacking following damage to the visual cortex? Which neural plasticity is possible, and which mechanisms govern recovery of functions after visual cortex damage in the adulthood? Our Lab addresses these questions combining psychophysics, psychophysiological measures, functional (fMRI), and structural neuroimaging techniques (DTI and tractography) in patients with focal brain damage to the visual system and “blindsight”. Owing to our collaboration with the group of Alain Ptito, we also study patients with hemispherectomy to gain causal insights on the contribution of subcortical structures on vision in the absence of the cortex.
Our behaviour is eminently shaped by social interactions and by our ability to in interpret emotional and social signals embedded in everyday information-rich contexts. We are committed to understand how social factors and stereotypes, such as race or gender biases, modulate naturalistic emotion. In the context of an evolutionary perspective of emotions, we are also investigating the brain capacity to recognize and differentiate facial expressions of basic (e.g., fear, anger, joy) as compared to social emotion (e.g., arrogance, guilt, embarrassment). Neuroimaging is integrated with virtual reality technologies that are able to bring daily life realism into the laboratory setting.
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