Speakers - Block 3

Katerina Fotopoulou

The embodied mind

Katerina Fotopoulou is currently a Senior Lecturer at the Psychoanalysis Unit, Psychology and Language Sciences Division, UCL and a research affiliate at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. There she researches body feelings, sensorimotor signals and related body representations in healthy individuals and in patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders of body unawareness.

This talk will focus on her current research projects on the psychological and neural mechanisms by which our interoceptive body feelings, as well as multimodal representations of the body, are influenced by internalised social expectations, on-line interactions with other people and by neuropeptides known to enhance social feelings.

Steve Di Costa

Form sensory cues to a sense of agency

Steve is a PhD student working in the Action and Body lab at the ICN. His research looks at how feelings of action control persist and evolve in complex learning environments and the brain processes that are thought to underlie these functions. How we infer agency over events in our environment is central to normative human functioning. Researchers now know that numerous different sensory signals have to be combined in order to create this subjective feeling of ownership over our actions.

His talk will focus on what factors cause this ‘sense of agency’ over our actions, what happens when it goes wrong, and what cortical regions are activated in order to create the feeling of control over our actions.

Jo Hale

Humans versus avatars in the future of mimicry research

Jo is a PhD student in the Social Neuroscience lab at the ICN. Her research looks at whether social mimicry can build rapport and trust between strangers. People tend to unconsciously copy each other's body language. How are we able to unconsciously detect that another person is doing what we just did a few moments ago? The timing of mimicry may be a crucial factor, but one that has been hard to study because it is very difficult for a human actor to perform mimicry at a precise time delay in a laboratory. However, using virtual reality technology we can program lifelike avatars to mimic people with much more precision and control than humans can mimic.

In this talk, Jo will outline how we used virtual avatars to explore the timing of mimicry. She will also talk about some cutting-edge data showing how people mimic each other in natural conversations, and how we may use this to build more realistic avatars in future mimicry research.

Heather Payne

There’s more to language than meets the ear

Heather Payne is a PhD student in the Visual Communication lab at the ICN. Her research assesses how language is processed by children born profoundly deaf. When we think about what it means to know a language, we usually think about speaking and hearing. But there are many other ways in which we access linguistic information!

In this talk, Heather will discuss previous studies showing that signed and spoken languages are associated with very similar, but not identical, brain networks in adults. But how do we get to this adult picture? So far we know very little about the development of the brain systems supporting language in children born profoundly deaf. Heather will talk about the challenges of measuring brain activity in children born deaf, and will introduce a novel technique that uses ultrasound to estimate brain activity during speech or sign production. This work is a small step towards a better understanding of how humans can acquire language in more ways than hearing speech.