Psychology Colloquium: Dr Jess Taubert (University of Queensland)
University of Queensland
Title: The mechanisms underlying the recognition of social signals in the primate brain.
The overarching goal of my research is to understand how we recognize different visual objects in the environment, with a specific focus on the recognition of social signals. Our remarkable ability to “read the room” is a form of social intelligence that emerges during infancy and contributes to our social wellbeing, yet its neural basis is only partially understood. How do we detect and locate other social agents while we are walking around? How do we seem to know when a stranger standing at a distance is looking directly at us? How do we track changes in someone’s mood during a conversation (and can we do this efficiently via zoom)? To address these questions and others, I combine psychophysics with state-of-the-art neuroscientific methods (including whole brain functional imaging, single-cell recordings and inactivation techniques) and I test multiple primate species, including rhesus macaques.
In this talk I will describe some of my recent discoveries including (1) the causal role of the amygdala in face detection and (2) the neural correlates of emotional body language in the macaque brain. These experiments set the stage for future studies that will identify the neural circuits responsible for interpreting facial signals and guiding social behaviour in both human and nonhuman primates.