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The programme in the summer term 2023

May 10, 2023, 14.30:

Mitja Back (University of Münster): The social relationships model: Understanding personality and social relationships

Personality and social relationships are closely interwoven and influence each other in multiple ways. The Social Relations Model (SRM) is a parsimonious conceptual framework that can be applied to better understand personality, social relationships, and how they are linked. In my talk I’ll introduce the basic SRM concepts: Social phenomena (e.g., social behaviors, interpersonal perceptions, affective and physiological reactions during interactions) are made up of actor, partner and relationship components. I show how much variance these components explain and how their stable share can be used to characterize individuals (i.e., personality) as well as dyads (i.e. relationships). I then present further extensions of the SRM (The Social Relations Lens Model, The PERSOC model), and present some research examples of how they can be applied to understand the effects of personality on first impressions and social relationships as well as the development of personality in social context. After having taken a quick look on the statistical implementation of SRM analyses, I close with a summary of current challenges in the SRM based study of personality and social relationships.


May 16, 2023, 15:00:

Brandon Munn (University of Sydney): Neuronal modelling bridges macroscale adaptive signatures across arousal

The human brain displays a rich repertoire of states that emerge from the microscopic interactions of cortical and subcortical neurons. Unfortunately, difficulties inherent within large-scale simultaneous neuronal recording limit our ability to link biophysical processes at the microscale to emergent macroscopic brain states. Here we introduce a microscale biophysical network model of layer-5 pyramidal neurons that display graded coarse-sampled dynamics matching those observed in macroscale electrophysiological recordings from macaques and humans. We invert our model to identify the neuronal spike and burst dynamics that differentiate unconscious, dreaming, and awake arousal states and provide novel insights into their functional signatures. We further show that neuromodulatory arousal can mediate different modes of neuronal dynamics around a low-dimensional energy landscape, which in turn changes the response of the model to external stimuli. Our results highlight the promise of multiscale modelling to bridge theories of consciousness across spatiotemporal scales.


June 2, 2023, 9:00:

Straub, Dominik (TU Darmstadt): Putting perception into action - inverse optimal control for continuous psychophysics

Psychophysical methods are a gold standard in psychology, cognitive science and neuroscience because they provide precise quantitative measurements of the relationship between the physical world and mental processes. Unfortunately, they require many trials with binary responses, preferably by highly trained participants.  Continuous psychophysics is a recently developed experimental approach that abandons the rigid trial structure and replaces it with continuous behavioral adjustments to dynamic stimuli. These more intuitive continuous tasks, e.g. tracking tasks, produce more temporally fine-grained measurements and allow efficient data collection even with untrained subjects. However, while highly controlled classical experimental paradigms like forced-choice tasks allow rigorous mathematical analysis, continuous tasks introduce additional factors such as action variability and internal behavioral costs. These factors can be accounted for by modeling continuous psychophysics tasks using Bayesian inverse optimal control. This approach recovers subjects' perceptual uncertainty as well as action variability, internal behavioral costs, and subjective beliefs about the task dynamics from behavior in a tracking task. In the hands-on part of the talk, I show how our Python package can be used to simulate and fit optimal control models and how different model parameters affect behavior.


June 6, 2023, 11.00:

Mayor, Julien (University of Oslo): Season of Birth Effects on Early Child Language Development: The Role of Maternal Vitamin Supplementation

I will present ongoing research on the impact of season of birth on early child language development. First, I will discuss a study involving 448 12-month-olds and 724 24-month-olds, revealing the influence of seasonality on language production in 12-month-old infants. Next, I will present results from a second study with 816 participants tested at 6, 12, and 18 months of age, demonstrating season-of-birth effects on cognitive scores. Furthermore, this study reveals interactions between season of birth, latitude, and prenatal maternal vitamin supplementation for expressive vocabulary. Importantly, maternal vitamin supplementation significantly reduces the influence of season of birth on language development. These findings suggest that maternal vitamin supplementation during pregnancy mitigates season-of-birth effects on infant language, potentially protecting against vitamin D deficiency and viral aggressions to the developing foetus CNS system during winter months.


June 8, 2023, 15.00:

Tung, Jenny (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig): Mothers, molecules, and mortality: the imprint of social relationships across the life course in wild baboons

Field studies of natural primate populations present a powerful opportunity to investigate the social and ecological determinants of health and fitness using fine-grained observations of known individuals across the life course. Here, I will summarize our emerging understanding of this process in the wild baboons of the Amboseli ecosystem in Kenya, emphasizing the insights provided by integrating behavioral and molecular data. I will review the strong evidence that early life adversity, social status, and affiliative ties in adulthood are central to life outcomes. I will then discuss how, by integrating genomic methods with longitudinal behavioral observations, we have been able to identify sex-specific signatures of social interactions and evidence for biological embedding via changes in DNA methylation. Together, our findings connect classical life course perspectives on primate behavior and life history with changes in gene regulation “under the skin.” They thus illustrate the increasing potential to understand our study subjects at both the whole-organism and molecular levels, even under field conditions.


June 28, 2023, 14.00:

DeCasien, Alexandra (National Institute of Mental Health, Maryland): Comparative neuroscience: insights into human distinctiveness and disease

Brains vary both between and within species. For instance, relatively large brains distinguish humans from other primates. Additionally, some people are more likely to exhibit certain brain-related conditions, due to their age, biological sex, etc. In this talk, Dr. DeCasien details how the proximate and ultimate explanations for (i.e., the how and why behind) this variation can be illuminated through phylogenetic comparative studies and multi-omic perspectives. 



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Antonio Calapai

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