We hadden het genoegen haar als spreekster te mogen begroeten op Donderdag 6 oct 2011. In bijlage een korte samenvatting (eng.) van haar spreekbeurt.

Seeing the world through rose-tinted  glasses: affective state influences primary visual cortex responsiveness.

The research line I’m pursuing under the supervision of Prof. Gilles Pourtois at the department of Experimental, Clinical and Health Psychology (Universiteit Gent) concerns the complex links between affective state and automatic deployment of attention. In particular, I’m interested in the role of negative affect (state anxiety, depressed states) and positive affect (contentment, pleasantness) on the very early brain responses to visual stimuli. I’m currently exploring if an induced affective state (positive or negative, as captured by standardized measures, see Rossi & Pourtois, 2011, Anxiety, Stress & coping) can dynamically modify the strength of brain responses to neutral stimuli in periphery, thus influencing the breadth of attentional focus. This, in turn,  would mean that different affective states could influence whether a visual stimulus passes through the early attentional bottlenecks or not. All in all our results, obtained with a series of behavioral and EEG experiments in healthy populations, indicate that the way we feel at a certain moment is able, by itself, to activate specific brain networks, and therefore to modulate cortical responsiveness to neutral stimuli. The intriguing outcome of our manipulations suggest that these effects take place as early as in primary visual cortex (the first step of the cortical pathway leading to the perception of visual stimuli). If this scenario is confirmed by further research, then the common sense notion that we see the world differently when we are sad or happy would be sustained by electrophysiological data in healthy humans. For more details: http://www.pan.ugent.be/