University of Cambridge > > Department of Psychiatry & CPFT Thursday Lunchtime Seminar Series > Clinical Neuroscience and the Heart-Brain Axis

Clinical Neuroscience and the Heart-Brain Axis

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Chair: Prof Paul Fletcher

Abstract: Cognitive and emotional processes are shaped by the dynamic integration of brain and body. A major channel of interoceptive information comes from the heart, where phasic signals are conveyed to the brain to indicate how fast and strong the heart is beating. This talk will detail how cardiac afferent signals can interact with neuronal mechanisms to alter emotion processing. This interoceptive channel is disrupted in distinct ways in first episode psychosis, schizophrenia, autism and anxiety; specific interoceptive disturbances may contribute to our understanding of symptoms in these clinical conditions, including dissociation and altered affective processing. The discrete cardiac effects on emotion and cognition have broad relevance to clinical neuroscience, with implications for peripheral treatment targets and behavioural interventions focused on the heart.

Biography: Sarah Garfinkel is Professor at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, where she leads the Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Group. She completed her PhD in Experimental Psychology the University of Sussex, before undergoing a training fellowship in Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan. Her current work focuses on brain-body interactions underlying emotion and cognition, with a particular focus on the heart. Adopting a translational perspective, she investigates altered cardiac-neural mechanisms in different clinical conditions. In September 2018, Sarah was named by the journal Nature as one of 11 “Rising Star” researchers, across all STEM disciplines internationally. Sarah is also involved in the public engagement of science where she contributes to science programmes on BBC TV and radio. For more detail, please visit:

This talk is part of the Department of Psychiatry & CPFT Thursday Lunchtime Seminar Series series.

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