Current research projects

Reward responsiveness in autism

I am interested in social neuropsychology in the context of processing motivational and rewarding stimuli. The aim of my doctoral project is to better understand how Autism Spectrum Conditions influence sensitivity to rewards. I use both the population-based approach, in which we target autistic traits in the general population, and the psychopathological approach, in which we compare individuals diagnosed with autism to neurotypicals. I am interested in how abnormal development of social cognition may influence reward value processing. For instance, whether individuals with autism find social appreciation (like a smile) less rewarding than neurotypical individuals, and whether this pattern changes when facing monetary rewards? To address these issues, I employ both neural (event-related brain potentials) and other psychophysiological indicators (pupil dilation response) of social and non-social reward processing. This project is supervised by Dr. Mareike Bayer, Prof. Dr. Rasha Abdel Rahman, and Prof. Dr. Isabel Dziobek.

Social relevance and familiarity

In the project FRAPS (Familiarity, Relevance, Attractiveness, and Pupil Sizes) Dr. Mareike Bayer, Prof. Dr. Isabel Dziobek and myself study pupil size changes in response to faces which vary in terms of subjective familiarity, relevance, and attractiveness. Previous research has shown that familiar faces (for example, of your mother, boyfriend, colleague) are processed differently in the brain than faces of strangers. We investigate arousal responses (measured as pupil size changes) in participants performing a task and receiving feedback in a form of smiling faces of familiar (relevant and non-relevant) and unfamiliar persons. We also present participants with various faces and explore the relationship between their subjective ratings of attractiveness and pupil responses.

Multidimensionality of rewards in experimental psychology

Together with Msc. Stef Meliss, Prof. Dr. Kou Murayama (University of Reading) and Prof. Dr. Isabel Dziobek we are analysing the use of rewards in experimental psychology and we consider multiple dimensions on which those could be described and compared. For example, in studies comparing social and non-social rewards researchers often use smiles and money, but those differ not only in their “socialness”, but also tangibility.

ERPs in response to faces associated with induced affect

Dr. hab. prof. UJ Magdalena Senderecka, Msc Bartłomiej Kroczek, and myself are investigating early event-related brain potentials (ERPs) in response to presented neutral faces wich have been previously associated with experimentally induced affect. For this, we have designed an exchange game with which we experimentally induce affect towards other players and subsequently we measure the brain responses to the neutral photos of this players. We are interested in how the brain processes the faces and whether there is a difference between those more “liked” than others.