Research Projects

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Brain Networks of Emotions and their Influence on Cognitive Processes

Our research investigates the brain systems underlying the perception, representation, and control of different types of emotions.

We use various neuroscience methods, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) to identify the brain circuits activated during emotion processing and their dynamics, together with behavioral studies in healthy volunteers and patients with brain disorders.

The processing of emotional stimuli.

A major focus of our research concerns the ways by which emotion may affect behavior or bias perception and awareness. We demonstrated that sensory stimuli with particular affective meaning tend to be processed with higher priority and capture attention more readily than neutral information, and that this is at least partly mediated by the amygdala, a subcortical brain region critically involved in fear and detection of salient events.

Emotion and cognition.

We also study how transient emotions may impact on subsequent brain states (e.g. at rest) and later cognitive functioning (e.g. during unrelated tasks).

We also study how transient emotions may impact on subsequent brain states (e.g. at rest) and later cognitive functioning (e.g. during unrelated tasks).
We have shown that showed that exposure to positive or negative emotional events can modify the configuration of brain activity across widely distributed areas during several minutes. We will now further apply these network approaches in combination with decoding techniques (e.g. based on machine learning and pattern classification) to determine whether dynamic modulations of brain connectivity correspond not only to distinct emotion types but also to distinct regulation abilities and processing biases that may be associated with particular affective disposition or personality traits.

Specific emotions.

In addition, our research compares the brain bases for different categories of emotions, including so-called basic emotions such as fear or anger, but also more complex emotions such as those evoked by music, social conditions, or moral values, together with other colleagues. Using advanced fMRI methods based on multivoxel classification analysis, we demonstrated that distinct patterns of cortical activity are produced by different types of emotions in medial prefrontal and posterior temporal areas, two brain regions usually associated with the ability to infer mental states in others, and that these patterns are independent of sensory modality (faces, voices, gestures).

Individual differences.

Finally, we are also interested to identify neurobiological factors underlying individual differences in emotion perception and emotion regulation, such as those associated with anxiety, depression, attachment style, or empathy.

Ultimately, our research aims at elucidating the neural architecture of affect and social behavior in humans, but also understanding substrates and appropriate intervention strategies for clinical disorders associated with emotional disturbances.

TEAM

Patrik Vuilleumier
Professor at Neurology Service, University Hospitals of Geneva
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Vanessa Siffredi
PhD Student
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Institution : University of Geneva
Thesis topic : My current project aims to investigate the effect of a common brain malformation (developmental absence of the corpus callosum, known as callosal agenesis) on cognition and brain functions in children and adolescents.

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Tomas Ros
Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Geneva
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Alexia Bourgeois
Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Geneva
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Sebastian Rieger
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Raphael Guex
PhD Student
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Institution : UNIGE
Discipline : Psychology
Thesis topic : My PhD projects includes several experiments with iEEG recording in epileptic patients and aims at discovering the time course of amygdala activation related to emotional processing
Supervisor : P. Vuilleumier, Dr. Dominguez-Borras

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Joana Leito
Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Geneva
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Camille Piguet
Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Geneva
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Emilie Qiao

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Institution : UNIGE
Discipline : Neuroscience
Thesis topic : The impact of emotions on social cognition
Supervisor : P. Vuilleumier

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Gelareh Mohammadi
Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Geneva
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Emilie Meaux
Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Geneva
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Discipline : Neurosciences

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Sebastian Baez
PhD Student, University of Geneva
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Sven Collette
Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Geneva
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Rafal Skiba
Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Geneva
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Natalia Fernandez Clares
PhD Student, University of Geneva
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Institution : UNIGE
Discipline : Neuroscience
Thesis topic : Examine the power of music to influence motor, cognitive and affective functions and the underlying neural substrate of these effects (fMRI).
Supervisor : P. Vuilleumier

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