Current Research Topics
1. Wanting, Liking and disliking
We aim to improve understanding of neural mechanisms of emotion and motivation, and how they interact with systems controlling attention, perception, consumption and decision-making. Our topics include the psychology and neurobiology of pleasure, desire, disgust and dread, with implications for motivational disorders such as drug addiction, eating disorders, impulsive-compulsive spectrum disorders, depression and anxiety. In particular, we are addressing the following questions:
- What are the neural correlates of disgust and desire for food and how do these relate to impulsivity, compulsivity, eating disorders and obesity?
- How do emotional and motivational states bias attention, learning and consumption?
- How do drugs of abuse hijack brain ‘reward’ systems?
- How do systems of food reward link with other positive emotions?
- What is the relation between food-based ‘core’ disgust systems and those involved in socio-moral disgust?
- What are the neural correlates of fear and anxiety and how are they regulated?
- What are the correlates of reward and punishment-related decision-making? How are these altered in conditions like suicidality and obsessive-compulsive disorder?
Current collaborations in wanting, liking and disliking: Dr Paul Keedwell (Cardiff University), Dr Petroc Sumner (Cardiff University), Dr Richard Wise (Cardiff University), Dr Katy Tapper (Swansea University), Dr Marianne van den Bree (Cardiff University), Dr John Parkinson (Bangor University), Prof. Mary Phillips (Pittsburgh University), Prof. Andrew Lees (University College London), Prof. Peter Rogers (Bristol University), Dr Sadaf Farooqi (Cambridge University), Dr Tim Dalgleish (MRC, Cambridge), Dr Barney Dunn (MRC Cambridge), Dr D Mataix-Cols (Institute of Psychiatry), Dr Fabrice Jollant (Montpellier, France), Dr Frederick Verbruggen (Exeter University), Prof. Krish Singh (Cardiff University), Dr Ilan Rabiner (GlaxoSmithKline).
2. Social Neuroscience
Emotions have powerful social signalling functions – but how does the brain decode emotion expressions and are they processed automatically? What are the neural mechanisms of empathy and sympathy? Current studies include:
- Is the amygdala response to threat-related facial expressions truly automatic?
- How do we control emotional distraction from salient, but task-irrelevant, socio-emotive signals?
- Are there selective impairments in emotion recognition?
- What are the limits of ‘motor’/mirror neuron theories of empathy?
- How does the brain decode complex social signals like shame and pride?
- Combining MVPA and TMS neuro-disruption to understand neural coding of emotion
- Combining fMRI and DTI to understand neural networks underpinning emotion processing
- Understanding individual differences in emotion sensitivity as a function of personality, genes and disorder (depression, anxiety, autism)
Current collaborators in social neuroscience: Dr Andy Calder (MRC, Cambridge), Prof. Paul Downing (Bangor University), Dr Chris Chambers (Cardiff University), Prof. Tony Manstead (Cardiff University), Prof. Derek Jones (Cardiff University).
Tapper K, Pothos EM, Lawrence AD (2010) Feast your eyes: hunger and trait reward drive predict attentional bias for food cues. Emotion In Press
Tavares P, Barnard PJ, Lawrence AD (2010) Emotional complexity and the neural representation of emotion in motion. Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience Epub ahead of print
O’Sullivan S, Djamshidian A, Evans AH, Loane CM, Lees AJ, Lawrence AD (2010). Excessive hoarding in Parkinson’s disease. Movement disorders 25: 1026-1033.
Peers PV, Lawrence AD (2009) Attentional control of emotional distraction in rapid serial visual presentation. Emotion 9: 140-145.
Beaver JD, Lawrence AD, Passamonti L, Calder AJ (2008) Appetitive motivation predicts the neural response to facial signals of aggression. Journal of Neuroscience 28: 2719-2125.
Jollant F, Lawrence NS, Olie E, O’Daly O, Malafosse A, Courtet P, Phillips ML (2010) Decreased activation of lateral orbitofrontal cortex during risky choices under uncertainty is associated with disadvantageous decision-making and suicidal behavior. Neuroimage 2010; 51: 1275-1281.
Lawrence NS, Jollant F, O’Daly O, Zelaya F, Phillips ML (2009). Distinct roles of prefrontal cortical subregions in the Iowa gambling task. Cerebral Cortex 19: 1134-1143.
Jollant F, Lawrence NS, Giampietro V, Brammer MJ, Fullana MA, Drapier D, Courtet P, Phillips ML (2008) Orbitofrontal cortex response to angry faces in men with histories of suicide attempts. Am J Psychiatry 165: 740-748.
Online Links and Resources
Related research centres in Cardiff:
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre
Cardiff University Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics
Illustrations/photos etc of research:
Exploring the building blocks of emotional expression
The anatomy of disgust
The emotional brain: an introduction to affective neuroscience
The social brain: an introduction
Paul Ekman on facial expression
Dopamine’s role in reward