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Matthew Apps

Session:
Cognitive Neuroscience


Institute:
Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford

Website:
www.mattapps.co.uk

Biography:
Matthew Apps is a cognitive neuroscientist in the Dept. of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford. His research examines the neural and computational mechanisms underlying motivation, decision-making and social cognition. He obtained an ESRC funded PhD examining the neurocomputational mechanisms underlying social cognition and motivation in 2012 from Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL) under the supervision of Prof. Narender Ramnani. He remained at RHUL for his first postdoctoral position examining the computational mechanisms that guide our ability to distinguish ourselves from other people in the laboratory of Prof. Manos Tsakiris. In 2013 he moved to Oxford as a postdoc on a project examining the neurobiology underlying motivation with Prof. Masud Husain. During this time he was awarded a 2-year fellowship at Somerville College, Oxford and in 2015 he became principal investigator on a BBSRC Anniversary Future Leader Fellowship grant with the aim of providing a biological framework for understanding apathy in healthy people and in neurological disorders. 
 
Abstract:
 
Neurocomputational basis of social signals in the anterior cingulate cortex
Over the last decade the functional properties of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) have become one of the most controversial and fiercely debated of any region of the human brain. On the one hand the ACC is implicated in a broad range of cognitive processes including pain, motivation and cognitive control that guide our own behaviour. In stark contrast, considerable evidence suggests this region also plays a vital role in social behavior, empathy and the processing of social stimuli. How can these viewpoints be reconciled? Here I present a novel account of the ACC’s contribution to social cognition. I provide evidence that only a particular sub-region of the ACC - in the gyrus (ACCg) - processes information specifically about other people and not about ourselves. The computational properties of this region allow it to play a crucial role in estimating how motivated other people are and dynamically updating those estimates when further evidence suggests they have been erroneous. Finally, I will present evidence that this new framework can provide insights into the mechanisms underlying social deficits in autism spectrum disorders.