Basi neuropsicologiche della percezione sociale ed emotiva
Recognition of, and reaction to, emotions and social signals in others is a key ability in everyday life. During social interactions we must continuously perceive and understand the behaviours and mental states of other individuals, such as their intentions and emotions. Furthermore, such information has to be rapidly integrated with the surrounding perceptual and social context. Recent evidence suggests that the same emotional signal may trigger different patterns of neuronal activity and modulate behaviors, depending on the environmental conditions in which the signal is embedded. Aside from these “perceptual factors”, recognizing or empathizing with the emotion or intention of someone else is also influenced by social or intergroup attitudes in the onlooker, such as gender, or racial stereotypes. Finally, psychological and neural processes involved in the understanding of other's emotions and inner states undertake mutual influences with different functions such as attention and awareness.
To study the neuropsychological bases of emotion and action perception, and the influence of group membership and familiarity on these abilities, we will conduct a series of experiments aimed at investigating the neurocognitive mechanisms of social perception abilities and their modulation and plasticity as a function of psychosocial factors. The different experiment series will combine novel psychophysical paradigms with eye movement recording, neurophysiologic (spTMS; ERP), structural and functional neuroimaging (DTI, fMRI) and brain stimulation techniques (rTMS; tDCS).
Moreover in order to develop, model, and test an integrative and interdisciplinary approach to the study of these psychological and neural mechanisms in realistic scenarios, we will combine advanced methods in psychology and neuroscience with 3-dimensional virtual reality technologies (VR) and paradigms that enable active participation in interactive social behaviors.