Social and Affective Neuroscience
Our primary area of research is the neural basis of human social interaction. Much of our work examines self-control processes from a social neuroscience perspective. The capacity of self-control, i.e. the conscious control of thought, action, and emotions, is essential for adaptive decision making. Problems revolving around self-control failure are numerous (e.g. spending sprees, eating binges, pathological gambling, substance addiction, risk seeking behavior). Moreover, self-control failure is a key component in a variety of neurological and psychiatric syndromes. In addition to their importance in individual decision making, self-control processes are of fundamental significance in social interaction behavior. For example, appropriate social conduct often requires individuals to control or regulate their internal demands or desires in order to conform to social rules and moral norms.
The study of self-control can be significantly improved, taking relatively newly emerging theoretical and empirical perspectives as well as new methodological directions into account. The research program has a strong interdisciplinary focus involving psychology, economics, and neuroscience. It aims to answer the following questions: Which brain regions are involved in the neural networks that implement self-control processes? Can pharmacological interventions or external brain stimulation modulate these processes? Do any individual dispositions explain why some individuals have higher self-control capacities than others?
A better understanding of the neural mechanisms that underlie self-control processes has implications for our understanding of the processes leading to substance addiction and other impulse control disorders, as well as to social conduct disorders. Furthermore, it may open up avenues for the development of novel, focal, and effective therapeutic strategies.