ERC project: Brain2Bee

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Brain2Bee: How dopamine affects social and

motor ability – from the human brain to the honey bee

January 2018 – January 2023 (ERC starting grant funded)

Portrayals of autistic people in the media often focus on difficulties with communicating and socialising. In contrast portrayals of individuals with Parkinson’s Disease tend to focus on motor difficulties. The co-occurrence of social and motor symptoms is thus critically underappreciated; Parkinson’s Disease patients exhibit social symptoms, and motor challenges (e.g. with handwriting or, perhaps, riding a bike) have been associated with Autism. At present, the biological basis of co-occurring social and motor challenges is unclear. The neuromodulator dopamine has been linked to both social and motor ability in neurotypical individuals. The aim of the Brain2Bee project is to unpack the relationship between dopamine, social and motor function, in order to shed light on the biological basis of co-occurring social and motor challenges.

pharmaPsychopharmacology: Brain2Bee will use psychopharmacology in a neurotypical population to develop a model of the relationship between Dopamine, Motor, and Social behaviour – the “DAMS” model.

genesGenes: Brain2Bee will use genetic analysis to refine DAMS, elucidating the contributions of dopamine-related biological processes (e.g. synthesis, receptor expression, reuptake). Brain2Bee will then test DAMS’ predictions in patients with Parkinson’s Disease and Autism. Thus clarifying whether, for example, dopamine-related genes confer risk for the development of social and motor difficulties in Parkinson’s Disease.

beeHoney Bees: Brain2Bee will investigate whether DAMS generalises to an animal model, the honey bee, enabling future research to unpack the cascade of biological events linking dopamine-related genes with social and motor behaviour.

PDAutism and Parkinson’s Disease: Both Autism and Parkinson’s Disease have been associated with differences in the functioning of the dopamine system. Brain2Bee will help us to understand whether these differences in the way the dopamine system functions are linked to social and motor abilities in individuals with Autism or Parkinson’s Disease.

Outputs:

Papers

Sowden, S. L., Schuster, B. A., Fraser, D.S., Keating, C., & Cook, J. L. Mouth and eyebrow movement kinematics differentiate emotional expressions. Under review.

Cook, J., Swart, J., Froböse, M., Diaconescu, A., Geurts, D., den Ouden, H. & Cools, R. (2019) Catecholaminergic modulation of meta-learning. eLife. 8:e51439

Schuster, B. A., Sowden, S. L., Karim, D., Wing, A.M., & Cook, J. L. (2019) Acting is not the same as feeling: emotion expression in gait is different for posed and induced emotions. 2019. Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience. Conference Abstract: 4th International Conference on Educational Neuroscience.

Sowden, S. L., Schuster, B. A., & Cook, J. L. (2019) The role of movement kinematics in facial emotion expression. 2019. Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience. Conference Abstract: 4th International Conference on Educational Neuroscience.

Cook, J. L. (2019) Autism, kinematics and social cognition. Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience. Conference Abstract: 4th International Conference on Educational Neuroscience.

Talks

Nov 2019 – Social Motivation Symposium, University of Haifa, Israel. Jen Cook as keynote speaker

September 2019 – The role of movement kinematics in facial emotion expression and perception. CHBH-IMH launch event, University of Birmingham, Birmingham UK. Sophie Sowden as speaker

June 2019 – Body up: Current trends and future directions in embodiment and social interaction, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom. Jen Cook as speaker

June 2019 – The role of movement kinematics in facial emotion expression. Body up: Current trends and future directions in embodiment and social interaction, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom. Sophie Sowden as speaker

June 2019 – The role of movement kinematics in emotion expression and perception. CHBH journal club, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK. Sophie Sowden and Bianca Schuster as speakers

June 2019 – The role of movement kinematics in facial emotion expression. Reading Emotions conference, University of Reading, Reading, UK. Sophie Sowden as speaker

March 2019 – 4th International Conference on Educational Neuroscience, Abu Dhabi. Jen Cook as keynote speaker

Nov 2018 – Departmental seminar, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, UK. Jen Cook as invited speaker

Posters

Hickman, L., Abdlkarim, D., Murphy, J., Coll, M.P., & Cook, J.L. (2020, January). Pulling on the Heartstrings: Tightening up the Heartbeat Counting Task. Annual meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society, London, United Kingdom.

Schuster, B.A., Fraser, D.S., Sowden, S.L., van den Bosch, J.J.F., Gordon, A.S., & Cook, J.L. (2020, January). Beyond kinematics: Predictors of performance in Heider-Simmel style animations. Annual meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society, London, United Kingdom.

Schuster, B.A., Sowden, S.L., Abdlkarim, D., Wing, A.M., & Cook, J.L. (2019, June). Inferring Emotions from Gait: Use of Kinematic Cues Depends on Individual Gait Speed Variability. Body up: Current trends and future directions in embodiment and social interaction, Manchester, United Kingdom.

Hickman, L., Abdlkarim, D., Murphy, J., Coll, M.P., & Cook, J. L. (2019, June). Pulling on the Heartstrings: Tightening up the Heartbeat Counting Task. Body up: Current trends and future directions in embodiment and social interaction, Manchester, United Kingdom.