ERC funding: €1.5 million for 5 years
Research area: The human mind and its complexity
PI: Dr Katerina Fotopoulou
How does our acting, sensing and feeling body shape our mind? This ERC-funded project is an ambitious exploration of the relationship between the body and the mind which spans philosophy, psychology and clinical neuroscience
Primary sensorimotor signals, including both interoceptive and exteroceptive signals about the body, are integrated and re-represented in various levels of the neurocognitive hierarchy. This re-representation of information in higher cortical areas is assumed to allow conscious awareness and more flexible behaviour. We are interested in the precise neurobiological mechanisms by which bodily signals are integrated and re-mapped in the brain to ultimately form our coherent, conscious sense of embodiment. To understand the nature of the latter we use several experimental ‘tricks’ from cognitive neuroscience to systematically manipulate sensorimotor signals, promote their integration or generate conflicts and illusions. This allows us to study their role in body awareness in healthy individuals, as well as in people with prototypical, neuropsychological and neuropsychiatric disorders of body unawareness.
Our body awareness does not depend solely (or solipsistically) on mental or brain processes that belong to the singular individual. Instead, the self is socially, or intersubjectively, constituted. The notion of a socially constituted self has had many different voices in philosophy and, more recently, neuroscience. Debates are still unfolding about the precise nature of intersubjectivity in relation to the architecture of the mind. In KatLab we attempt to address this topic by conducting neuroscientific studies that focus on how the physical presence of other people, as well as our interactions and relationship with them, modulate our (inter)subjective experience of our body. We are particularly interested in how hierarchical re-mappings of interoceptive signals are modulated by social contextual factors and integrated with other sensorimotor information to form multimodal representations of the body.