Research


How do we make sense of others' expressions of emotion? Why are some of us better at it than others? Why do people with Autism Spectrum Conditions show a deficit in recognising expressions of emotion from other people? Is there a genetic underpinning to these abilities? 

These are some of the questions that we have been working on. If you find any of these ideas exciting and worth pursuing, please get in touch.
The Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics with a 3T MRI scanner with inbuilt eyetracking, psychophysiology, as well as state-of-the-art EEG, TMS, and eyegaze tracking facilities provide an ideal setup to pursue these questions.



Empathy and Emotion

Empathy is the lens through which we view emotions in others. The highly empathic can sense others' emotions automatically, while those with lower empathy (as well as people with Autism Spectrum Conditions) are  often marked by a deficit in picking up socio-emotional cues from other people.  Empathy exists in a continuum across the population, and our research here targets the following questions:
a) how does empathy influence the perception of emotions in others and in ourselves?
b) what are the neural and behavioural processes underlying empathy?


Genetics of Empathy and Emotion Perception

The experience and perception of emotional states is a primary building block for social behaviour. It is therefore of immense theoretical interest to uncover the molecular bedrock of these ancient instincts. While there is a large body of animal literature on the molecular underpinnings of social-emotional behaviour, work on humans  is comparatively recent, and has been limited to correlational studies of genetic variability with behavioural and neural measures. Our work seeks to expand these frontiers , studying how  genetic polymorphisms relate to individual differences in emotion perception and empathy.


Autism

Autism Spectrum Conditions represent a cluster of symptoms  that include a deficit in recognition of social and emotional cues from others.  One increasingly popular approach is to study each component of this symptomatic cluster as a continuum, treating it as an endophenotype. Our research probes the functional and structural neuroanatomy of the autistic brain, and how it relates to the observed symptomatology in the socio-emotional domain.