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Neural Correlates of Dynamic Cross-Modal Social Intelligence

Principal Investigator:

Thalia Wheatley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College

The purpose of this grant is to test the idea that dynamic signatures of emotion are cross-modal and processed similarly in the brain as an efficiency of social intelligence. This ability to map at the level of cross-modal, dynamic features may explain why similar musical, gestural, and prosodic sequences appear to evoke the recognition of similar emotions. For example, sad music is typically described as slow and heavy, similar to the downward trudge of a depressed person, whereas happy music is typically associated with upbeat and energetic visual movements. Preliminary research from our lab suggests that these analogies reflect deep structural similarities across auditory and visual perception. Such structural similarities suggest a common neural substrate; a theory consistent with neuroimaging findings that link the superior temporal cortex to the perception of biological sound and motion. The proposed set of studies tests this "deep structure" hypothesis directly, investigates the neural correlates of cross-modal social perception, and examines the arcuate fasciculus as a potential anatomical marker of dynamic social intelligence.


Thalia Wheatley, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College. Dr. Wheatley completed her doctoral training in social psychology with Timothy Wilson and Daniel Wegner at the University of Virginia. After graduating, she received neuroimaging training as a postdoctoral NIH research fellow with Alex Martin, Ph.D. in the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition directed by Leslie Ungerleider. She now has more than eight years of experience conducting functional imaging studies and has published several behavioral and neuroimaging studies on the feeling of will, morality, animacy and emotion. Her current research investigates how the brain infers minds and mental states from biological form (faces) and biological dynamics (voices, music, and movement).

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