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The Social Neuroscience group studies the underlying mechanisms of social interaction, and whether these develop differently in individuals with autism spectrum condition.
Our research spans many domains and questions:
- Social - how do people interact with other people, in particular nonverbal interaction and hand actions?
- Cognitive - what are the information processing mechanisms involved in social interaction?
- Developmental -how does social cognition develop over childhood and why does this development sometimes go wrong?
- Motor - how do we move in response to others, interacting as well as perceiving?
- Neuroscience - what brain systems and connections are involved in social interaction?
To answer these questions, we use behavioural, cognitive, virtual reality and brain scanning methods to study healthy children and adults as well as those with autism spectrum condition.
Independent Research Fellows
- Sarah White
Sarah White is an independent research fellow, interested in mentalising, central coherence and executive function in autism & Asperger Syndrome. Cognitive subtypes and individual differences in the autism spectrum and their relationship to behaviour. Understanding of social stereotypes in autism. Sensorimotor impairments in dyslexia and other developmental disorders.
Post-doctoral Research Fellows
- Roser Cañigueral
My research is focused on the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie eye gaze processing during social interactions, both in typical and autistic individuals. I am particularly interested in how being watched and gaze contingency modulate eye gaze in natural communicative interactions, and their consequences on prosocial behaviour. To study this I combine behavioural tasks, eye-tracking and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).
- Ishita Chowdhury
I am interested in studying implicit mentalizing, i.e. the ability of people to attribute mental states such as beliefs, desires and intentions to other individuals and themselves, especially when they are not explicitly aware of doing this, and how this might differ in Autistic individuals. I am particularly interested in investigating whether or not Autistic individuals, who have previously been found to be impaired in mentalizing, are capable of detecting deception, i.e. when they are being lied to, by using behavioural measures and eye tracking.
- Sara de Felice
I am interested in studying the neural and behavioural features that emerge during natural human social interaction, and whether these are associated with learning. Do we learn better from people we are more socially tuned with? I use functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) in hyper scanning studies (recording brain activity from two people simultaneously) to study brain-to-brain synchrony. I also use motion capture, video and audio recording data to identify behavioural coordination patterns during social learning tasks. I am founded by the Leverhulme Trust as part of the Ecological Study of the Brain DTP.
- Isla Jones
My research explores the neural mechanisms underlying the audience effect, and I have a particular interest in exploring social interactions in real-world environments. As part of my PhD, I am also working to develop and improve analysis methods for the integration of physiological data such as heart rate and breathing rate with functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and behavioural data. In collaboration with Shimadzu, my research aims to provide a new neurocognitive understanding of the origins of the audience effect.
- Sujatha Krishnan-Barman
My research is centred on exploring the cognitive and neural mechanisms underpinning mimicry and overimitation. As part of my PhD I explore how these mechanisms are modulated by top-down social processes, and how they differ between healthy adults and those with autism spectrum condition. In my research I utilise a variety of techniques including behavioural studies, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).
- Marcia Petyt
I am interested in studying mentalizing in individuals with autism who speak more than one language. Bilingualism, multilingualism and polyglotism have many social and cognitive advantages but it is not clear if these advantages extend to mentalizing. In my research I will be using behavioral measures, eye tracking, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) tractography.
- Paula Wicher
I am interested in studying mechanisms and neural effects of motor and emotional mimicry. Particularly, I am interested in exploring dyadic social interactions in ecological settings. During my PhD, I aim to use a variety of techniques, including video recordings, motion capture, virtual reality (VR) and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).
- Ruihan Wu
My research interests are the construction of mentalising and its relationship with potential socio-cognitive factors. During my PhD, I am primarily exploring the cognitive mechanism and neural correlates of implicit mentalising and the interrelationship between implicit and explicit mentalising in both neurotypical and clinical populations, such as individuals with autism. I am also investigating potential factors that can be related to the performance of implicit and explicit mentalizing, such as culture, social motivation and social engagement. Techniques I use include behavioural measures, eye-tracking and electroencephalography (EEG)/ functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Honorary Research Fellows
- Anna Ciaunica
I am a philosopher and cognitive scientist interested in interdisciplinary approaches to embodied cognition. My research focuses on the relationship between (a)typical forms of self-consciousness and social interactions. I am a Principal Investigator at the Institute of Philosophy Porto, the Mind, Language and Action group (MLAG); and a Research Associate at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience,University College London, and the Social Neuroscience Group. I coordinate the international and interdisciplinary Network for Embodied Consciousness and the Arts (NECTArts) aiming at fostering creative collaborations between philosophers, scientists, artists and performers worldwide.
- Katherine Ellis
Background/research: My research aims to understand social and emotional difficulties experienced by individuals with genetic syndromes associated with intellectual disability and autism. To date, my research has focused on how differences in social cognitive development, as well as sensory processing, may underpin differences in social and emotional functioning observed in these groups. I hope to develop sensitive diagnostic tools and targeted interventions based on detailed descriptions of causal mechanisms between genetic abnormality, to neurobiological and cognitive phenotypes, and behaviour within each syndrome.