abstract Lauri Nummenmaa

Lauri Nummenmaa (Aalto University School of Science & Turku PET Centre, Finland)

Where the Wild Things Are: Emotional Brain Studied in Real-World Conditions

Studying how emotional information is encoded and represented in the brain during complex, dynamic social encounters poses huge technical challenges for the neuroscientists, who have consequently resorted to experiments using simplistic and impoverished social stimuli presented in clearly defined blocks. This is obviously a far cry from the interactive social world our brains must parse every day. However, our recent advances in the fMRI signal analysis and experimental design have enabled us to study the foundations of brain basis of human emotions and social cognition under highly naturalistic settings with unparalleled accuracy and ecological validity. In this talk I will describe our recent work in the field of 'naturalistic' audiovisual neuroscience and highlight how theses studies have revealed how i) of dynamic social and emotional information is represented in the cortex, ii) how top-down cognitive task sets and emotional contagion during naturalistic stimulation cause brain activity to become temporally synchronized across individuals, and iii) how brain basis of emotions can be studied using realistic, two-person computer games. I discuss how these results contribute to our understanding of the brain dynamics of social cognition, and how this kind of naturalistic neuroscience approach could contribute to a significant paradigm shift in social and cognitive neuroscience.