Speakers - Block 1

"Why do adolescents take risks?"

Jack Andrews

The time of life between childhood and adulthood has long been characterised as one of impulsivity, irrationality and immaturity, with adolescent's often stereotyped as risk takers. However, with recent advances in brain imaging and psychological science, we now know that adolescence is a unique period of significant biological, psychological and social change. This talk will draw on recent findings that have sought to answer a number of questions such as: Do adolescents take more risks than adults? In what ways do other people influence our perceptions of risks? Does the teenage brain process risks differently to adults? The importance of understanding risk taking in real world social contexts will be emphasised, given that adolescence is, for many, a time of substantial social-reorientation where friendships group expand and a sense of group belonging becomes increasingly important.

"Mentalising Homeostasis: The Somatic and Social Origins of the Self" 

Katerina Fotopolou

According to cognitive neuroscience there are at least two ways of knowing yourself. One through integrating different sensory signals into an egocentric reference frame and assigning the first person perspective. Another, through the cognitive ability to disengage from the embodied first person perspective, and adopt another person’s perspective on your experience. These research traditions have progressed with relative independence in the field. For example, different paradigms examine feelings of body ownership from a first person perspective (e.g. the Rubber Hand Illusion) versus third person perspective (e.g. self-recognition in mirrors).

Inspired by interdisciplinary insights on development, I present a set of behavioural and neuroscientific studies with healthy individuals, neurological patients with right-hemisphere damage and patients with anorexia nervosa, putting forward the idea that proximal, embodied experiences of affective congruency may act as the ‘emotional glue’ between first and third-person perspectives on one’s own self-consciousness. Without such unification, self-consciousness is either dominated by egocentric, interoceptive priors (as in anosognosia for hemiplegia), or third-person (objectifying) judgements lacking in affective anchoring to the body (as in anorexia nervosa). By contrast, the progressive integration of these perspectives contributes not only to a flexible, unified experience of the self, but to our ability to understand other minds, and empathise with their embodied and mental experience, even though ours may be different.

"Ageing and the Transition Between Ageing and Dementia

Emrah Düzel

As we age, our ability to recall recently experienced events gradually declines. However, memory problems in old age can also be caused by Alzheimer’s disease.  A major challenge in neuroscience is to identify the neurobiological reasons for age-related memory decline and to understand how it can be distinguished from disease-related memory impairment.  I will talk about recent advances in neuroscience that help us to tackle these challenges.