SPR 2014 Program
Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD
University Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychology, Northeastern University
Invited Address: How Emotions are Made
Thursday, September 11, 2014
10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
The science of emotion is guided by a 17th century typology of the mind, a 19th century experimental method rooted in essentialistic assumptions, and 20th century statistics focused on reductionism. Several decades of research in psychology and neuroscience have recently illustrated that this scientific paradigm is inadequate for understanding the neurophysiological basis of emotion, creating a fundamental barrier to answering the most basic question of how emotions contribute to health and disease, to cross cultural communication, and to moral determinations of right and wrong. In this talk, I will introduce a novel constructionist approach to the science of emotion centered on three key hypotheses, all consistent with a Darwinian perspective: (1) an emotion word (like anger) refers to a conceptual category, populated with situation-specific instances that are tailored to the environment; (2) each instance of emotion is constructed within the brain's functional architecture of domain-general core systems; (3) the workings of each system must be understood within the momentary context of the rest of the brain and the body. These three themes - population thinking (vs. typologies), domain-general core systems (vs. essentialism), and constructive analysis (vs. reductionism) - offer a new brain-based epistemology for the scientific study of emotion.
Hartmut Schächinger, MD
Department of Clinical Psychophysiology, Institute of Psychobiology, University of Trier
Invited Address: Stress as an Adaptive Process
Friday, September 12, 2014
10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Stress is both functional and complex, and the neuroendocrine mechanisms driving the stress response are evolutionarily ancient, being seen along the vertebrate spectrum. Moreover, the whole brain, including its phylogenetically youngest parts, such as the neocortex, is particularly sensitive to stress hormones, suggesting that stress affects a variety of behaviors. In his talk, Hartmut Schächinger will address the effects of stress and the most important human stress hormone, cortisol, on cognition and behavior. He will summarize the current literature, and suggest a new research model, based on the phylogenetics of brain structures and behavior, as well as genomic and non-genomic modes of cortisol action.
Arthur Kramer, PhD
Director of Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and Swanlund Chair and Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Illinois
Invited Address: Physical Activity Effects on Mind and Brain
Friday, September 12, 2014
5:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Populations throughout the industrialized world are becoming increasing sedentary as a result of the changing nature of work and leisure activities. As a result of these societal changes increases in diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, and forms of cancer are increasing. Physical activity serves to reduce susceptibility to these diseases. However, increased physical activity also has direct, and relatively rapid effects on cognition and brain health. Such results have now been reported, over the course of several decades, in animal studies of physical activity.
In my presentation I will review research conducted in our laboratory, and the field in general, which has examined the extent to which fitness training and physical activity enhances cognition and brain structure and function of older adults. The presentation will cover both cross-sectional and intervention studies of fitness differences and fitness and physical activity training. Studies which assess cognition via both behavioral measures and non-invasive neuroimaging measures, such as magnetic resonance imaging, functional magnetic resonance imaging, event-related brain potentials, and the event-related optical signal, will be reviewed and discussed. Finally, I will explore the gaps in the human and animal literature on cognitive and brain health and the manner in which they can be addressed in future research.
Terry D. Blumenthal, PhD
Professor of Psychology, Wake Forest University
Presidential Address: Information Processing and Prepulse Inhibition of Startle: 40 Years of Research in the First 200 Milliseconds
Saturday, September 13, 2014
11:00 a.m.-12:00 noon
Prepulse inhibition of the human acoustic startle response (PPI) involves measuring startle reactivity (most often quantified as electromyographic activity of the muscle that causes the eyeblink) on trials with a sudden and intense sound that is presented either alone or preceded by another stimulus, in any sensory modality. In her Presidential Address to SPR in 1974, Frances Graham suggested that PPI might be a measure with considerable practical and theoretical utility. In the four decades since that Address, researchers have found PPI to be remarkably rich and multifaceted, and have used PPI to investigate questions and test hypotheses in every major area of psychology. If PPI varies based on some factor, then that factor can be studied with PPI. This simple fact has resulted in PPI being applied to the study of cognition, personality, development, translation across species, clinical conditions, psychopharmacology, and a variety of other areas. This year's SPR Presidential Address will begin with a brief overview of PPI research, illustrating the wide range of topics to which PPI can be applied. The power of this measure in revealing brain function in a fairly noninvasive way, and the exquisite sensitivity of PPI, will be highlighted. The Address will then focus on one specific interpretation of PPI, the contention that it reflects the protection of information processing from interruption caused by the startle response. Some caveats, qualifications, and potential pitfalls will also be presented, as will directions for future research, based on methodological questions that have yet to be answered.