Cutting Edge Neuroscience Research to Be Discussed during Online Conference at HSE University
The first International Conference on Social Neurology in Environmentally Sound Conditions, organized by the International Laboratory of Social Neurobiology of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Aalto University will be held online on June 21-23, 2021. The HSE News Service spoke with conference organisers and some of the key speakers in the run-up to the conference about its agenda and some research highlights.
Rapid methodological advances are increasingly making it possible to conduct social neuroscience studies in ecologically valid conditions. These novel approaches span from neuroimaging studies with naturalistic stimuli such as movies to the use of wearable sensors in real life social interactions. Topics in this new area of research span from investigation of the neural basis of social cognition, unravelling the effects of cultural influences, to investigation of the biological basis of intergroup biases.
Leading Russian and foreign scientists will take part in the conference: Gal Raz, Iiro Jaaskelainen, Enrico Glerean, Ale Smidts, Emily Falk, Jonathan Levy, Yaara Yeshurun, Shinobu Kitayama, Igor Grossman, Svetlana Kirdina-Chandler, Vasily Klyucharev, Anna Shestakova, Yury Alexandrov and others.
The First Milestone
Anna Shestakova, Director of the Centre for Cognition & Decision Making, anticipates a warm atmosphere, vibrant talks and fruitful discussions with outstanding researchers in the frontiers of social neuroscience and decision making.
This is the first significant event of the Laboratory for Social Neurobiology co-headed by Professors Iiro Jaaskelainen from Aalto University and Vasily Klucharev from HSE University.
In 2019, Professor Iiro Jaaskelainen was awarded with most prestigious Russian research grant (so-called ‘megagrant’) and introduced a new line of the brain research using naturalistic stimuli such as movies in ecologically valid conditions.
Anna Shestakova, Director of the Centre for Cognition & Decision Making
Together with the colleagues from Aalto University we have gained expertise in multimodal dynamic neuroimaging using intersubject-correlation analysis which allows to address a broad range of topics in social neuroscience, including social influence, cross-cultrural differences and many others.
International Scope: Presentation Highlights
Yaara Yeshurun, from the School of Psychological Sciences and Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel-Aviv University, does research on social neuroscience “in the wild”. She is interested in studying the neural mechanisms underlying individual differences in the way individuals interpret external situations and the role of brain-to-brain synchronization in real-life interactions.
Yaara Yeshurun is going to present her ongoing work on political-views dependent differences in neural synchronization, while processing naturalistic stimuli.
In my lab we are measuring behavioral, physiological and neural synchronization while individuals interact with each other. One of our main goals is to understand the role of synchronization in social interactions. We have a couple of projects demonstrating the relationship between behavioral synchronization and interaction quality.
Hang-Yee Chan, from University of Pennsylvania, USA; University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, will speak about the neural signature of advertisement liking and present some insights into the psychological processes of consumer valuation and their temporal dynamics.
How and when does consumer valuation take place during immersive experiences, such as watching video ads? Real-time measurement of brain responses could shed light on both the psychological processes involved and the temporal dynamics as the experience unfolds.
In our study we found that liking-related brain signals emerged as early as 3-5 seconds from video onset. Based on neuroscientific evidence, this study underlines the importance of having engaging narratives in the first few lead-in seconds of video advertisements.
Shinobu Kitayama, University of Michigan, USA, is interested in the triadic function of social norms and the implications for culture, social relations, and wellbeing.
The study of social norms has been the mainstay of social psychology from the inception of the discipline, focusing primarily on social influence. However, social norms have multiple vital functions. Shinobu Kitayama proposes a triadic function of social norms.
Specifically, through the past 50,000-year history of cultural evolution, social norms evolved to coordinate people's behaviors within increasingly large ingroups and cope with various natural and human-made threats (e.g., famine, pandemic, wars). Further, this group coordination function of social norms is held in place since the norms function to regulate social relations while offering psychological security to the group members.
I will discuss a series of behavioral and neuroscience investigations that have addressed each of the three functions. I will conclude that, in combination, these three functions undergird the pivotal roles of social norms in cultural evolution, social institutions, and individual wellbeing.
The presentation of Igor Grossmann, (University of Waterloo, Canada) is entitled ‘Sound judgment: Folk beliefs and empirical evidence’.
In my talk, I will bring up a pervasive belief across cultures that better judgment depends on consulting one’s thoughts and feelings rather than asking close others or wisdom of the crowds.
From indigenous groups in Peru to post-industrial Global North, people prefer individualized deliberation strategies and rate them as wiser than transactive deliberation strategies involving others.
However, according to the empirical insights from experimental philosophy, social psychology, and forecasting research, less individualized and more transactive strategies provide greater foresight and wisdom in managing life’s challenges. It appears that judgmental preferences contradict the collective empirical wisdom about strategies that in fact promote sound judgment.
Luke J. Chang
Luke J. Chang, Dartmouth College, USA, will talk about computational social and affective neuroscience.
Emotions reflect coordinated, multi-system responses to events and situations relevant to survival and well-being. These responses emerge from appraisals of personal meaning that reference one’s goals, memories, internal body states, and beliefs about the world.
Dysregulation of emotions is central to many brain and body-related disorders, making it of paramount importance to understand the neurobiological mechanisms that govern emotional experiences. Unfortunately, the field of emotion has struggled to reliably elicit and measure affective experiences, which has limited theoretical developments.
One of the main focuses of our laboratory is to use a computational cognitive neuroscience framework to develop models of affective experiences. In my talk at the conference, I will present examples of how we can combine naturalistic elicitation of feelings with pattern-based neuroimaging analyses to develop brain-based models of affect.
These models appear to generalize across individuals and can aid in revealing the temporal dynamics of individual affective experiences. We hope that this interdisciplinary work will aid in facilitating a more cumulative and extensible science of emotion.
Enrico Glerean, Research Fellow at the HSE University’s International Laboratory of Social Neurobiology, will discuss "naturalistic imaging" i.e. the use of naturalistic stimuli (such as films, narratives, music, etc) in human brain imaging and tell about my journey with naturalistic stimuli and fMRI which culminated last year in an special issue for the peer reviewed journal NeuroImage.
After 10 years of using naturalistic stimuli in neuroscience, I think the field is quite mature and ready for using these types of complex paradigms. But still many challenges need to be addressed: novel and even basic work is still needed for increasing validity and generalisability of the results that we have found. Naturalistic datasets come with the challenge of being quite large, so I will propose that only with a more global large-scale effort we can move the field forward.
In general neuroscience with naturalistic paradigms tries to answer questions related to basic neuroscience research, however the insights it provides can be related to current topics such as ingroup/outgroup, politics, and other social issues which are important for science as well as society.
I will present the work we have done for curating the special issue for the NeuroImage journal and future ideas and challenges that need to be solved in the next few years. I am still involved in many neuroscience studies, but what I am really trying to solve is the opening of brain imaging data for fostering replication of neuroscience results as well as sustainability of research with re-use of the same data for novel research questions.
An international team including researchers from the HSE Centre for Language and Brain and the HSE Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience have demonstrated the critical role of the left, but not the right, inferior frontal gyrus in action naming. The study findings are published in Brain Structure and Function.
In an innovative study, researchers from HSE University, RAN Institute of Linguistics, and the National Medical and Surgical Centre named after N.I. Pirogov measured and analysed high-frequency oscillations (HFO) in different regions of the brain. An automated detector predicted seizure outcomes based on HFO rates with an accuracy rate of 85%, and by applying machine learning, made it possible to distinguish between epileptogenic and non-epileptogenic HFO. The study’s findings are published in Frontiers in Human Neurosciences.
HSE Researchers Caused People to Behave Less Rationally by Suppressing Activity in Specific Parts of the Brain
Researchers at the HSE Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience have shown experimentally that magnetic stimulation of the prefrontal cortex of the brain causes test subjects to act less rationally, changing how they assess possible outcomes at the moment they make risky decisions. The scientists believe that the discovery will provide a better understanding of the mechanisms that give rise to gaming addiction. The results of the study were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
An international group of scientists and medical specialists, including HSE researchers, examined the role played by microRNA (miRNA) and long non-coding RNAs on the progression of ovarian cancer. Having analysed more than a hundred tumour samples, they found that miRNA can prevent cell mutation while long non-coding RNAs have the opposite effect of enabling such mutations. These findings can help design new drugs which act by regulating miRNA concentrations. The study was published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
In early September, the HSE University Faculty of Computer Science hosted the international conference Computer Methods of Cognitome Analysis. The event was organised by the International Laboratory of Algebraic Topology and Its Applications at the faculty.
An international team of scientists from the UK, Spain, Denmark and Russia (including researchers from the HSE Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience) conducted an experiment demonstrating that people automatically integrate extralinguistic information into grammatical processing during verbal communication. The study findings were published in the Scientific Reports Journal.
Researchers of the HSE University and the Southern Federal University (SFedU) have tested a new method for studying the perception of facial emotional expressions. They suggest that asking subjects to recognise emotional expressions from dynamic video clips rather than static photographs can improve the accuracy of findings, eg in psychiatric and neurological studies. The paper is published in Applied Sciences.
Academics’ work week became even longer during the pandemic. This is true of researchers from different countries, independently of their gender and specialisation, an international research team with HSE University participation found. Their working time during the pandemic was 51 hours compared to the usual 40. The increased number of working hours per week seems to have become part of the new academic norm. The results of the study were published in the Plos One journal.
Researchers of the HSE International Laboratory of Statistical and Computational Genomics together with their international colleagues have proposed a new statistical method for analysing population admixture that makes it possible to determine the time and number of migration waves more accurately. The history of Colombians and Mexicans (descendants of Native Americans, Spaniards and Africans) features two episodes of admixture that occurred about 350 and 200 years ago for Mexicans and 400 and 100 years ago for Colombians. The results were published in the Plos Genetics journal.
Two of the winners, Konstantin Sorokin, doctoral student and visiting lecturer of the HSE Faculty of Computer Science and research assistant at the HSE International Laboratory of Algebraic Topology and its Applications, and Daria Kleeva, doctoral student of the HSE Faculty of Social Sciences and research assistant at the HSE Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience Centre for Bioelectric Interfaces, spoke to the HSE News Service about why attending the School matters so much for them.