We are interested in how individuals understand social signals from others and respond to them. Characterising the full spectrum of diversity in human social behaviour is critical to understanding conditions such as autism, commonly associated with difficulties in reading and responding appropriately to social and emotional cues. Rather than viewing autism as a fixed category, our approach considers autistic individuals to be represented more toward one end of a set of continuously distributed dimensions.
We use a range of techniques including functional MRI, psychophysiology, psychophysics, and eye-gaze tracking to address these questions. Our research is supported by several funding bodies including the Medical Research Council, European Research Council, Leverhulme Trust, Economic and Social Research Council, Felix Foundation, and Autism Speaks.
Empathy & Emotions
Empathy is the lens through which we view emotions in others. The highly empathic can sense others' emotions without much effort, and respond appropriately to them. We are interested in understanding the component processes of empathy, and the factors that can influence these processes. The animation above describes some of our work on the role of reward as one such factor that can influence empathy-related processes.
This arm of our research programme focuses on translating some of the lab-based neuroscience work to a portable format that can be administered by non-specialists in field settings. One aim of this work is to enable large-scale phenotyping in a variety of global settings. A second aim of this work is to be able to help identify children at risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, by assessing children in their home settings. For more details, visit the STREAM project website.