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Heart and minds: The hidden impacts on emotion and memory

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There is increasing recognition that cognitive and emotional processes are shaped by the dynamic integration of brain and body. Embodied and interoceptive mechanisms are proposed to underpin conscious self-representation and emotional experience. 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 and memory processing. Moreover, this interoceptive channel is disrupted in distinct ways in first episode psychosis, schizophrenia, autism and anxiety. This talk will provide empirical examples and suggest how specific interoceptive disturbances may contribute to our understanding of distinct symptoms in these clinical conditions, including dissociation and impaired emotion processing. The discrete cardiac effects on emotion and cognition have broad relevance to clinical neuroscience, with implications for peripheral treatment targets.

Bio Dr Sarah Garfinkel is a Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry and Consciousness Science based in Neuroscience at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex. She also has a part time appointment in the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Sarah completed her PhD in Experimental Psychology at the University of Sussex before undergoing a fellowship in Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan. Here she specialized in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the neurocircuitry underlying persistent fear memories. Her recent work takes a more embodied perspective, where she combines fMRI with cardiovascular manipulation to investigate body-brain interactions in emotion and cognition. In addition to her research, Sarah teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in cognitive neuroscience and emotion. She also engages with the public communication of science with appearances on BBC 2 and BBC 4 and Radio 4.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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