The ability to recognize subtle emotions through facial expressions, anticipate emotional outcomes, and adjust behaviors accordingly is crucial for effective social communication. This process entails the interplay of both bottom-up perceptions driven by social cues and top-down regulation based on social outcomes, which potentially engages a distributed network consisting of the striatum, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often exhibit altered social perception and cognition, and have difficulties in social feedback processing and adaptive emotional & social learning.
The objective of my research is to gain a nuanced understanding of the information transmission pathways that underlie ambiguous emotion recognition, feedback-guided emotional learning, and sensitivity tuning. To achieve our goals, we combine well-established psychological experiments, computational modeling, non-invasive electrophysiological (EEG), and neuroimaging (fMRI) techniques among normal people, and recently with intracranial electroencephalography (iEEG) and concurrent electrostimulation targeting the deep brain areas such as amygdala and striatum among neurosurgery patients. By working closely with neuroscientists, psychologists, neurologists, clinicians, and social workers in Japan and worldwide, we strive to provide in-depth comprehension of the neural circuitry mechanisms underlying the recognition of ambiguous emotions, feedback-guided emotion learning, and sensitivity tuning. We also seek to develop neuroscience-based training programs to improve emotional perception and social functioning among individuals with social deficits based on our fundamental understanding of the neural circuits and neural information transmission pathways.