Sensory stimuli imbued with a strong emotional-motivational relevance, i.e. stimuli with an intrinsic or acquired aversive or appetitive meaning, have the capacity to elicit enhanced processing in the brain, to potently summon attentional resources and to drive prompt and compelling behavioral reactions. Nonetheless, when an individual is strongly committed to the achievement of an unrelated, primary behavioral goal, cognitive and brain mechanisms capable of suppressing the pre-potent impact of emotional stimuli are enacted. Through the development of a highly coherent experimental framework, the present research endeavor will aim for a full understanding of the neurocognitive mechanisms and neural substrates that confer a special status to emotional stimuli, in the perspective provided above, i.e., both in terms of their sensory representation and in relation to their privileged access to attentional and motor systems. Furthermore, the project will aim at investigating the critical inhibitory mechanisms and neural substrates which are engaged when the organism is driven by the strong need to reach an unrelated, primary behavioral goal, in order to allow suppression of the privileged representation of such stimuli and of their overpowering capacity to summon attention and compel behavior. Overall the project will rest on an interdisciplinary approach hinging on two key principles: the comparative analysis of the underlying neural mechanisms across species (humans, monkeys, rodents), allowing the characterization of evolutionarily conserved, functionally-relevant brain architectures; and the analysis of the mechanisms at multiple levels of spatio-temporal resolution, including the behavioral, brain network (multi-site electrophysiology, microstimulation, TMS) and cellular (molecular biology and immunohistochemistry, electrophysiology, optogenetics) level of analysis.
|Research areas involved in the project|
|Behavioral Sciences (DNBM)|
|Behavioral Sciences (DSVR)|
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