Research Overview

The broad goal of our research is to understand the neural basis of emotion and social behavior. We work with rhesus monkeys because their social organization resembles the social organization of human societies. Like humans, they use facial expressions and other gestures to communicate their emotions and intentions. We use static images and videos of monkeys displaying appeasing, neutral, or aggressive social behaviors to elicit natural emotions in the viewer monkeys. Recently, we added real-life pairwise interactions between monkeys and direct interactions of human experimenters to our paradigms. The monkey-monkey interactions involve reciprocal facial signaling, eye contact, and competing or non-competing behavioral tasks, and the human-monkey interaction involves social grooming. We focus on the amygdala out of the many brain structures involved in socio-emotional behavior and monitor neural activity from the amygdala in conjunction with several autonomic measures of arousal. The overall goal of our studies is to capture the real-time dynamic interactions between neural systems implicated in the emotional evaluation of social stimuli and the elaboration of behavioral and autonomic responses elicited by stimuli of high significance.

About the PI

Katalin (Kati) Gothard obtained her M.D. in Romania followed by postgraduate training in neurosurgery. In 1996 she obtained her Ph.D. in Neuroscience in the laboratory of Bruce L. McNaughton, and continued her training with postdoctoral work at UC Davis in the laboratory of David G. Amaral. In 2002 she established her lab at the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona. Her lab has pioneered monitoring cellular brain activity and autonomic responses in the context of natural social behaviors. Kati's lab includes senior staff, postdocs, graduate students and undergraduate students who work on a variety of behavioral and neurophysiological projects centered on role of the primate amygdala in emotion and social behavior. She serves as faculty in the departments of Neurology and Neuroscience at the University of Arizona and in the Center for Translational Social Neuroscience at Emory University.