The heart, lungs, and stomach all contract in their own distinct rhythms and continuous information about these rhythms is send to the brain. This ‘sensing of our internal world’ (or interoception) is tightly intertwined with how we sense and perceive the external world (exteroception). Through which pathways might such an influence take place? How far reaching is the influence of interoceptive rhythms in the brain? And what might the purpose of such an interaction be? We try to answer all this, and more, in our latest review paper “Interoceptive rhythms in the brain”, which is out now in Nature Neuroscience.
The study of emotional consciousness and its neural correlates taps into many fascinating questions, such as whether emotions can be unconscious, if animals are able to experience emotions similar to humans, and how exactly emotions are represented in the brain. How one would answer these questions depends on who you are asking, and the various theories on emotional consciousness non-surprisingly propose strongly contrasting opinions on how to answer these questions. The consequences of these answers have far reaching consequences however. Take the example of animal consciousness. Whether or not you believe that the experience of fear in a mouse and in a human bears any resemble to one another will either make the role of animal models redundant or fundamental in the study of emotions.
But how does one go about to studying these questions, how much evidence is there for the current theories of emotion, and is the field at the stage where we have grounds for adhering to one of these theories over another?
In our new review paper out in Neuroscience of Consciousness, Rocco Mennella and I review the cognitive and precognitive approach to emotional consciousness, and examine the evidence on which these theories are built. At the same time we closely examine the parallels between the study of emotional consciousness and perceptual consciousness to see where these fields overlap, and importantly, where they diverge. We argue for an inclusionary way forward in the study of emotional consciousness, by explaining how various experimental contrasts that are available each come with their unique limitations, and a full puzzle cannot be put together without including all of the available pieces. Lastly, we argue that studying emotional consciousness comes with its own challenges, and that methods and contrasts stemming from perceptual consciousness cannot always be adapted to study emotions. We propose several ways in which the field of emotional consciousness can be moved forward from what currently feels like an impasse created by disagreement between the different theories.
The article is openly available here
Our recent work, “Whose emotion is it? Perspective matters to understand brain-body interactions in emotions”, has now been published in NeuroImage.
In this project, which was done in collaboration with Julie Grèzes, we explored the role of Heartbeat Evoked Potentials in Self-Other distinction and subjective emotional experience. By using combined EEG with various physiological measures and subjective ratings, we could demonstrate that HERs i) play a role in distinguishing our own from someone else’s perspective and ii) that HERs can predict how we will feel in response to seeing affective images, but not how we think someone else is feeling.
The DEC Equality & Diversity Committee will be hosting its next event on December 8th! The event aims to highlight recent advances in mental health research and will bring the spotlight to some of the early career researchers in our department, to introduce us to their work on this important topic. We are also delighted to welcome Astrid Chevance as an invited quest speaker!
The event will start at 14:00 and after all talks there will be a chance to chat with the speakers over some coffee and cakes. More details can be found on the event’s agenda page.
A new interview has been published, in which Elenora van Rijsingen and I discuss the new Equality & Diversity initiative at Ecole Normale Supérieure, how to create more equality in academia, an upcoming screening for the Picture a Scientist documentary, and more. The full interview can be read here .
I’m excited to announce I am the recipient of the MBB Young Scientist Award 2021. This award will enable me to carry out a 3-month research project at the Mind Brain Body institute in Germany. The project will focus on how affective state modulates cardiac-saccade coupling during free viewing of emotion inducing images.
The 11th of February marks the international day for women and girls in science. To celebrate this occasion, the DEC Equality & Diversity committee, in collaboration with the Physics and Geosciences departments of Ecole Normale Supérieure, are organizing a Wikipedia edit-a-thon. The goal of the event is to increase visibility of women in science. Only 16% of Wikipedia scientist biographies are about women and only 15-20% of Wikipedia editors identify as female or non-binary.
During this 2 hour event, there will be a short introduction on how to create and edit Wikipedia pages, after which small interactive groups will work on the Wikipedia page of a particular scientist. Suggestions for scientist profiles representing the different fields (cognitive science, theoretical physics, and geosciences) will be provided, but feel free to bring your own suggestions as well.
Everyone is welcome to join, no pre-knowledge of Wikipedia is necessary! To join and for further information please sign up using the following link: https://bit.ly/3iKGNjT
Stay up to date with our Equality & Diversity initiatives by following us on twitter: @DEC_EqDiv (Cognitive Sciences department) @diversity_ENS (Ecole Normale Supérieure)
On October 29th (10:30 Paris time) I will be giving an online talk at the Neuromatch 3.0 conference. I will be chatting about my post-doc research on the role of neural responses to heartbeats in self-other distinction in emotional perspective taking. You can find the full abstract here, as well as the link to the zoom room!
Update: the talk can now be viewed on youtube!