Shifting the Spotlight: The Role of Subcortical Structures in Social Cognition - Dr. Shay Gabay

ה', 05/11/202012:30-14:00
Shay Gabay


University of Haifa

Abstract: Human cognition has an evolutionary origin. Accordingly, older evolutionary structures may still play a role in cognitive processes that are considered to be uniquely human. Nevertheless, the current research in psychology and cognitive science focuses largely on the involvement of cortical regions in cognition – neglecting the potentially rich influence and function of subcortical structures. This “cortico-centric” bias regarding the involvement of cortical regions in cognition may stem from the methodological tools typically used to study brain functioning and, most importantly, their limitations. I propose a radically different conceptual and methodological framework for exploring the evolutionary predecessor of various cognitive processes and the functions played by subcortical brain structures in cognition. To demonstrate the strengths of the suggested framework, I will focus in my talk on two faculties underlying social abilities, the hallmark of human cognition. I will present studies on the evolutionary basis of cognitive and neural processes of social attentional allocation and face perception. I will argue that subcortical components are still an essential part of these processes. To substantiate these claims, I use an array of unconventional tools including: 1) a phylogenetic model species of complex cognitive processes - the Archer Fish, and 2) a sensitive optical manipulation capable of isolating the functional role of subcortical regions in humans. The findings demonstrate the functional involvement of subcortical regions in social abilities and suggest an early evolutionary origin for these faculties