Mind the Brain 2016

 Celebrating 20 years of Cognitive Neuroscience

Watch previous talks from the Mind the Brain 2016 programme by clicking the links below!

 Dr Lucy Foulkes speaking on social reward (2016 - Steve X Cross photography)

Dr Lucy Foulkes speaking on social reward (2016 - Steve X Cross photography)

 

"An autobiography of the ICN"
 
Prof Tim Shallice

Timothy Shallice is a professor of neuropsychology and the first director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (ICN). He has been a professor of Cognitive Neuroscience since 1994 and was influential in laying the foundations for the discipline of cognitive neuropsychology, by formalising many of its methods and assumptions in the book From Neuropsychology to Mental Structure. He has also worked on many core problems in cognitive psychology and neuropsychology, including executive function, language and memory. Together with psychologist Donald Norman, Shallice proposed a framework of attentional control of executive functioning. Tim’s talk will present a history of the ICN and the people that made the institute what it is today.

 

"How we lay down memories"
 
Dr Leun Otten

Leun Otten is a Senior Lecturer in the UCL Division of Psychology and Language Sciences who joined the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in 1999. She leads a research group on human memory and the brain, and makes widespread contributions to educational excellence at the Institute. Leun’s research group investigates why we remember some things but forget others. There is growing evidence that for memory to be effective, the brain needs to be in the right state when new information is encountered. In her talk, Leun will detail how science can investigate the creation of new memories, and will demonstrate this via the recording of electrical brain activity. She will explain what we currently know about the influence of brain states on everyday and special memories, in people of varying ages. She will also give a sneak preview about how this research may help people learn more, and forget less, in future.

 

"Anxiety in the brain: adventures with a shock machine" 
Dr Oliver Robinson

Oliver Robinson is Principal Investigator on an MRC Career Development Award Fellowship and a Senior Research Associate at the ICN. His research programme attempts to understand the neuropsychopharmacological underpinnings of anxiety disorders by examining both patient populations and affective manipulations in healthy individuals (especially threat of shock and pharmacological manipulation). The main research tools used are computerized neuropsychological testing, computational models and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In his talk, Oliver will focus on how to safely tune - using psychological and/or pharmacological intervention - prefrontal-subcortical circuits, in order to disengage pathological anxiety.

 

"Social reward in healthy and clinical populations"  
Dr Lucy Foulkes

Lucy is a research associate at the ICN. Her research asks questions such as: why do you spend time with others? What do you enjoy about it? Social reward can be defined as the motivational and pleasurable aspects of interacting with other people. In this talk, Lucy will give an overview of what social reward is, and describe findings from her own and others’ research about different types of social reward. She will consider the importance of age: for example, do teenagers experience more reward from social interactions than other age groups? Then she will discuss several neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders associated with dysfunctional social reward, including autism, depression and psychopathy, and the implications this has for people’s social behaviour and relationships. The talk will finish by considering what future research questions need to be addressed to better understand how social reward is linked to clinical disorder and mental health, and whether we might be able to change people’s experience of social reward.

 

"Cannabis: madness and medicine?" 
Prof Val Curran

Val Curran is a Professor of Psychopharmacology at UCL. Her research aims at understanding how psychotropic drugs like cannabis could be used to explore and thereby enhance our understanding of the neurotransmitter basis of cognitive and emotional processing. Cannabis has been used throughout history for its medicinal as well as its pleasurable effects. It has also been demonised over more recent decades for inducing ‘reefer madness’. The drug contains over 100 completely unique ingredients we call ‘cannabinoids’ and levels of these vary widely in different types of cannabis. How does this variation influence the effects of the drug? This talk will address this question and ask what implications our increasing scientific understanding of cannabis and our brains’ endocannabinoid system has for current debates about medicalization and legalization.

 

"Why psychiatry needs neuroscience: the search for new depression treatments" 
Dr Camilla Nord

Camilla is a PhD student working in the Cognitive Neuropsychiatry lab. Her research investigates the neural basis of aberrant cognitions in neuropsychiatric disorders, particularly depression. Today, hundreds of thousands of studies have been published on the biology of psychiatric disorders, including depression. But in depression, and among mental health disorders in general, scientific discoveries have led to very few—if any— breakthroughs in treatment. What is preventing us from developing new treatments in mental health? Using depression as a case study, Camilla will discuss some of the major advances in the search for new treatments, including work from her lab in identifying novel brain regions implicated in depression, and applying neuroscientific techniques to psychiatric clinical trials.

 

"Predicting happiness" 
Dr Robb Rutledge

Robb is an MRC career development fellow who has recently opened a new lab at the Max Planck Centre for computational psychiatry and aging research. His research combines computational modeling with neuroimaging, pharmacology, and neurophysiology to study the relationship between decisions and emotions across the lifespan. Feelings of happiness and sadness are central to conscious human experience, but we still know little about what happens in the brain when we have these feelings or how these feelings relate to our past and future decisions. Recently, Robb developed a computational and neural model of happiness that links rewards and expectations to subjective feelings and to dopamine. His talk will address how different methods used in neuroscience can be combined in order to treat people suffering from depression and also study healthy individuals.

 

"Autism: Am I thinking what I think I am thinking you are thinking?"
 
Dr Sarah White

Sarah is a senior research fellow in the metacognition and executive functions lab at the ICN her research focusses on mentalising and executive functioning in autism spectrum disorder. Autism is a puzzle. It’s carried in the genes but we don’t know which genes. It affects molecules and cells in the brain but we don’t know how. And every person with autism seems different but they all have the same diagnosis. One thing that does seem to draw all these individuals together is their difficulty mind-reading. In this talk, Sarah will show you some of the experiments they've run to investigate mind-reading in autism. And she will present a new idea for how we might use that knowledge to help autistic children learn to mind-read.

 

"The embodied mind" 
Dr Katerina Fotopolou

Aikaterini (Katerina) Fotopoulou, PhD, 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.

 

"From sensory cues to a sense of agency" 
Dr Steve Di Costa

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.

 

"Humans versus avatars in the future of social mimicry"
 Dr Jo Hale

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.

 

"'Take my advice, it will be good for me'; the neuroscience of persuading others" 
Dr Bahador Bahrami

Bahador is the leader of the Crowd Cognition Group at the ICN. His research explores the cognitive and neurobiological basis of cooperation and social evaluation, from the limits of collective decision making to the unconscious perception of trust and dominance. When applying for a PhD position, you write that cover letter meant to persuade the reader to take your application seriously. Bahador's talk is about the mental processes behind that cover letter.

PANEL DISCUSSION: How will cognitive neuroscience affect our lives in the next 20 years?

Prof Martin Eimer - Martin runs the brain and behavior lab at Birkbeck College. There he studies the relationship between overt indicators of task performance and covert responses generated by external and internal cognitive processes.

Nima Khalighinejad - Nima is a PhD student in the action and body lab at the ICN. He is interested in the sense of agency we feel over self-caused events and how the frontal and parietal circuits link intentional actions with subsequent outcomes.

Dr Anna Kuppuswamy - Anna is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Neurology. She is interested in understanding whether fatigue occurring in stroke patients is due only to changes in motor areas of the cortex.

Dr Geraint Rees - Geraint runs the awareness lab at the ICN. There he uses fMRI in combination with psychophysics and transcranial magnetic stimulation to understand the underlying neural mechanisms of our visual awareness.