Verena Ly at the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society conference

This month I went to Colorado in the United States for a week.

The main purpose of this trip was to attend the annual Social and Affective Neuroscience Society conference, in Denver, Colorado. The conference consisted of an intense two-day program with a great list of speakers for the symposia and keynotes. I also presented a poster about my work during one of the poster sessions. Broadly speaking, my work is about how emotions influence our decisions.

Specifically, my poster presentation was about work in which we tested the link between an emotional reaction and our subsequent decisions. People were asked to perform a decision making game on a balance board, which allows the measurement of tiny bodily movements. During the decision making game, people had to learn the optimal decisions in order to win as much money as they can, while they were primed with totally irrelevant emotional faces. Using the unique set-up, we were able to measure bodily freezing as an emotional reaction (reflected as a greater cessation of bodily movement towards negative emotional faces compared to positive emotional faces) and the subsequent decisions. The results demonstrated that people, who showed more bodily freezing, were also more influenced by the irrelevant emotional faces in their decisions. It is quite remarkable that something as reflexive as bodily freezing towards irrelevant face primes is linked to something that seems as controlled as a well-thought-out decision. The findings strengthen the idea that we are vulnerable to automatic emotional responses when we are making decisions, and that there are individual differences in this vulnerability.

I also presented this work twice in a talk during a visit at Tor Wager’s lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and during the pre-conference get together for an emotion regulation meeting at Denver University. All in all, it was a busy, but exciting week! It was very nice to have these opportunities to share my recent findings with other researchers working in related fields and to get feedback from them. I had the opportunity to talk to many researchers from different labs, which is also a good thing in terms of networking. Finally, during my stay in Boulder I found out some nice hiking trails!! 

This post was written by Verena Ly, a PhD student at the Motivational and Cognitive Control lab and Experimental Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience lab.