Investiţii pentru viitorul dumneavoastră
Programul Operaţional Sectorial "Creşterea Competitivităţii Economice"
Centrul Internațional de Cercetare și Educație în Tehnologii Inovativ Creative – CINETic
Proiect cofinaţat prin Fondul European de Dezvoltare Regională

MET Conference

Neuroscience and Theater Therapy

26-28 May 2021 | National University of Theater and Film, CINETic Center, Bucharest

Theatrical representation is one of the most complex forms of social interaction. Bringing together storytelling, physical action, role play and emotions, theatre encapsulates the core of human experience. Theatre therapy emerged at the beginning of the last century with the influential work of Jacob Levi Moreno, a Bucharest-born psychologist.
Currently, we have a wide range of theatrical and art healing approaches which aim to cultivate a harmonious and healthy society. Drama therapy professional associations and practices are growing in number on every continent, based on the proven potential of theatre and art interventions as therapeutic processes. Current practices would benefit from understanding the mechanism on why and how different elements of theatre practice and therapy are beneficial to humans. Cross-disciplinary research in social neuroscience, psychology and theater provide the tools to advance knowledge on the biological substrates for theater therapy and its healing mechanisms. In this spirit, the conference MET Neuroscience and Theater Therapy will bring together researchers that approach social behaviors in humans and animal models from diverse angles with psychologists, theatre practitioners, researchers and therapists. The focus will be on neural, hormonal and psychological processes engaged by simple and complex social interactions and their possible implications on theatre therapies.
All communications will be available online based on registration.

MET conference is part of the project Developing a Methodology of Therapy Through Theatre with an Effect at the Neurochemical and Neurocognitive Levels, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through Competitiveness Operational Programme 2014-2020, SMIS code 106688 and implemented by UNATC “I.L. Caragiale”, CINETic Centre, LDCAPEI LAB
The content of this study does not reflect the official opinion of the European Union or the Romanian Government.

The conference will host invited talks and communications selected from our open call.

Call for submissions

We are looking for submissions of novel results at the intersection of neuroscience, theatre, drama therapy, psychology, art therapy.

Key words: imitative behavior, role play, imaginary actions, improvisation, dramatic action, performance, art therapy, embodiment, presence, conflict and conflict resolution, bonding, closeness, social learning and memory, synchrony, social buffering, stress

Selected contributions will be presented in online communication format of 10 minutes. 

In order to apply you can click here to submit your title, authors & affiliation, abstract and figure.


Submissions:  From 21 February to 3 of May 2021

Accepted communications will be announced on 7th of May 2021.

Sending recorded presentations of accepted communications by 10 of May 2021.

Each presentation will have a maximum of 10 minutes. Selected presentations will have online QA sessions organized on topics.

Registration: will open on 15 of April and close on 15 of May 2021.

26-28 May 2021 Conference


Patricia Churchland

University of California, USA

Keynote: The Brains Behind Morality

For decades, Patricia Churchland has contributed to the fields of philosophy of neuroscience, philosophy of the mind and neuroethics. Her research has centered on the interface between neuroscience and philosophy with a current focus on the association of morality and the social brain. A Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego and Adjunct Professor at the Salk Institute, Pat holds degrees from Oxford University, the University of Pittsburg and the University of British Columbia. She has been awarded the MacArthur Prize, The Rossi Prize for Neuroscience and the Prose Prize for Science.  She has authored multiple pioneering books, her most recent being Touching a Nerve. She has served as President of the American Philosophical Association and the Society for Philosophy and Psychology. Pat lives in Solana Beach, California, with her husband Paul, a neurophilosopher, and their labradoodle Millie. They have two children, Anne and Mark, both neuroscientists.

The Brains Behind Morality

Christian Doeller

Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany

Renée Emunah

California Institute of Integral Studies, USA

Keynote: Emotional and Relational Impact in Drama Therapy

Renée Emunah, PhD, RDT/BCT (Board Certified Trainer of Drama Therapists), Program Chair, is the founding director of the Drama Therapy program. She is the author of the book Acting for Real: Drama Therapy Process, Technique, and Performance, which is considered a classic text in the field. Renée is the recipient of the North American Association for Drama Therapy Gertrude Schattner Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Field of Drama Therapy, and additionally received the NADTA Excellence in Teaching Award.  Renée served on the Editorial Board of the international journal Arts in Psychotherapy for 15 years, and she is currently on the Advisory Board of the Drama Therapy Journal. She is a former (3rd) president of the National Association for Drama Therapy and has worked for decades as a drama therapist, including 15 years specializing in group work with emotionally disturbed adults and adolescents. A pioneer in the field, she was among the first four drama therapists to be officially registered in the US. 

Emotional and Relational Impact in Drama Therapy

While most forms of psychotherapy facilitate cognitive insight and self-awareness, the immediacy of the dramatic mode tends to access and deepen emotional realms.  This presentation will explore how drama therapy processes support emotional expression, containment and connectedness.  The action-oriented mode in drama therapy also fosters interrelationship (with others and within oneself). Intersections between relational and emotional domains in using drama as therapy – and the role of empathy – will be spotlighted.

Robert C. Froemke

New York University School of Medicine, USA

MET-UNATC, Romania

Keynote: Social transmission of maternal behavior by oxytocin

Dr. Robert C. Froemke is a Professor in the Skirball Institute, Neuroscience Institute and Departments of Otolaryngology, Neuroscience and Physiology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. The Froemke lab studies how sounds acquire meaning by relating synaptic plasticity to changes in behavior, such as the adaptations in the maternal brain to recognize infant cries or how cochlear implant stimulation leads to auditory perception.

Social transmission of maternal behavior by oxytocin

The presentation will discuss recent results and unpublished data from our lab on how the neurohormone oxytocin enables maternal behavior in new mother mice. I will focus on experience-dependent plasticity in auditory cortex related to recognizing the significance of pup distress calls, which are important for mother mice retrieving lost pups back to the nest. I will also describe a new system we have built to combine neural recordings from the auditory cortex and oxytocin neurons of the hypothalamus in vivo, synchronized with days-to-weeks long continuous video monitoring of homecage behavior to identify when oxytocin release and cortical plasticity might occur during natural social and maternal experience.

Larry J. Young

Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, USA

Keynote: Brain mechanism of social bonding, social loss, and empathy

Dr. Larry J. Young, PhD is Director of the Center for Translational Social Neuroscience and of the Silvio O. Conte Center for Oxytocin and Social Cognition at Emory University in Atlanta.  He is also William P. Timmie Professor of Psychiatry at Emory School of Medicine.  Dr. Young’s research focuses on the neurobiological mechanisms underlying social relationships, and the translation of those mechanisms into novel treatments for social deficits in psychiatric disorders such as autism. His work has identified a role for oxytocin in mediating pair bonding and empathy-based consoling behavior in prairie voles. He is the author of The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction explores the latest discoveries of how brain chemistry influences all aspects of our relationships with others.

Brain mechanism of social bonding, social loss, and empathy

Love is a powerful emotion that has been a substantial driving force behind many aspects of culture and society, ranging from art to war.  This lecture will describe the neurobiological mechanisms involved in pair bonding, partner loss and empathetic behaviors discovered in monogamous prairie voles. The role of oxytocin in regulating many aspects of social relationships relevant to love and compassion will be discussed.


Uri Alon & Yuvalal Liron

Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel

Dramatic action: Analyzing human interactions using a theater-based paradigm

Uri Alon. By day a professor of systems biology, using math to understand human medicine. By night a playback theater actor, using improvisation to bring peoples’ stories to life on the spot with empathy. Uniting these two strands, he co-founded the theater lab at Weizmann which uses methods from physics to map powerful theater concepts about human interactions into scientific research paradigms. Studies include the mirror game as a paradigm for co-creation without leader and follower, and quantitative experiments on creative leaps and dramatic action.

Yuvalal Liron studied mathematics, physics, and computer science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and continued to study Theatre acting and directing at “The Performing Arts Studio”, Tel-Aviv. Since graduating he’s been sharing his time between theatre, algorithms development, academic research, and facilitating leadership workshops. His main focus in theatre is on investigating human interactions and formulating basic principles that support good acting. In addition, Yuvalal has a strong belief in the healing power of theatre, has led a theatre group for high-risk youth, and is a member of the “Combatants for Peace” Palestinian-Israeli theater group.

Dramatic action: Analyzing human interactions using a theater-based paradigm

Theater actors act better when they focus on intentions called dramatic actions – to threaten, to seduce, to soothe- rather than acting out emotions – anger, fear, joy. After this talk, you will be able to understand and recognize dramatic actions and consider how useful they are to analyze real-life human interactions. You will also see tools to consider dramatic actions as a quantitative research paradigm.

John Bergman

Hollins University, Roanoke, VA, USA

35 years in forensics, doing drama therapy with sexually violent men – what and how to measure effect

John Bergman, MA, RDT, MT, BCT, is a UK born drama therapist/theatre director with over 37 years of experience with prisoners and prison officers, as well as men, women, and children in all types of criminal justice settings. He is the founder and director of Geese Theatre Company USA, founder/teacher of Geese Company UK, and a board member of Transcena in Romania. He has also worked in prisons in Brazil, Romania, New Zealand, Australia, Bulgaria, and Croatia. He has presented internationally at over 500 professional conferences. He is the recipient of the NADTA 2005 Research Award. Bergman was the clinical supervisor and program creator of a therapeutic neurological program for adolescents in Melbourne. He is the author of Challenging Experience, An Experiential Approach to the Treatment of Serious Offenders, and co-edited Current Perspectives & Applications in Neurobiology: Working with Young Persons who are Victims and Perpetrators of Sexual Abuse.

35 years in forensics, doing drama therapy with sexually violent men – what and how to measure effect

The thinking BEHIND the talk! As a long term practitioner in applied theatre techniques in prisons nationally and internationally, and then as a drama therapist working extensively domestically and internationally with violent and sexually violent men, it is still NOT possible to present evidentiary data in a court of law about the work that would reduce or overturn a sentence or be accepted to mitigate sentence severity. Part of my work for many years was to consider and research any possible quantifiable basis of drama therapy praxis to prove its effectiveness.

The field of drama therapy in the treatment of violence and sexual offending was overpowered by the clinicians who saw cognitive behavioral therapy as the only legitimate technique for treatment. In the talk I shall discuss simple tools like the GSR and drama therapy exercises. Drama therapy is action work – moving clients from one state to another with varying degrees of knowledge but with reduced measurability. The combination of neurological equipment, dramatic action and the ease of arousal induction with violent men may have finally given us a quantifiable method.  

Bart Boets

University Hospitals Leuven, KU Leuven, Belgium

Bart Boets is a clinical psychologist and research professor at the Center for Developmental Psychiatry, Dept. of Neurosciences, KU Leuven. Their research focuses on the cognitive, perceptual, socio-emotional and neural correlates of neurodevelopmental disorders, in particular autism and dyslexia.  He has also contributed to a number of studies on dyscalculia, specific language impairment and ADHD. In addition to behavioural and psychophysical paradigms, they apply functional MRI, diffusion MRI, EEG and eye-tracking. Most of their studies are embedded within the Leuven Autism Research (LAuRes) consortium where I co-coordinate the neurocognitive research. The overarching aim of LAuRes is to unravel the complex interplay between genes, brain and biology, cognition, clinical phenotype and environment. In 2014 he was a Fulbright visiting researcher at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research (Gabrieli Lab) at MIT and at the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation at Harvard Medical School (Cambridge, MA, USA).

Jane Lester Bourne

British Association of Dramatherapists, UK

Working with people who have intellectual disabilities and mental ill health: giving people the chance to share their narratives through playing and storytelling

Jane Bourne is an HCPC Dramatherapist. Her clinical work is within Specialist Services in Cumbria Northumberland Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust, in the United Kingdom. As a dramatherapist she offers a psychosocial intervention that helps people to express themselves in a way that places less burden upon verbal communication. By using creative and playful interactions within structured therapy sessions she offers people a clinical benefit with a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing. Jane is also an accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist, the Vice-chair of the British Association of Dramatherapists, a clinical academic, visiting lecturer and PhD by publication student at the University of Derby.

Working with people who have intellectual disabilities and mental ill health: giving people the chance to share their narratives through playing and storytelling

Up to 190 million people (3.8%) above the age of 15 years throughout the world have significant difficulties in functioning. Yet people with intellectual disabilities do not have equal access to health care, education, and employment opportunities, whilst experiencing exclusion from everyday life activities. It’s important to let this population share their untold narratives and express how they feel. Dramatherapy is a platform that can facilitate this.  As a psychosocial intervention it can support relational skills, facilitate friendship building and help people a to communicate when written or verbal communication is challenging.

Ioana Carcea

Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, USA

UNATC Bucharest, Romania

Ioana Carcea grew up in Romania, where she studied medicine. She came to the US for her doctoral studies on developmental mechanisms of neural circuit assembly, working with Deanna Benson at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She then worked with Robert Froemke at NYU School of Medicine, on neuromodulatory mechanisms for auditory perception, attention and social (maternal) behavior.

Thomas Elbert

University of Konstanz, Germany

Thomas Elbert studied Psychology, Mathematics and Physics at the universities of Munich and Tübingen (PhD, 1978). He is currently Professor of Clinical Psychology and Neuropsychology at the University of Konstanz, Germany. He is also a member of the International Neuropsychological Symposium, the German Academy of Science and president of the Italian branch of vivo ( His more than 400 publications include methodological studies (e.g., applications of nonlinear systems theory to biological systems), investigations on the self-regulation of the brain, and on cortical organization, plasticity and their relation to behaviour and psychopathology. Based on progress in understanding the mechanisms of neuroplasticity, new treatment approaches for aphasia, tinnitus and focal dystonia have been developed in the Konstanz laboratory. Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET), a culturally universal short-term intervention for the reduction of traumatic stress symptoms in survivors of organized violence, torture, war, rape, and childhood abuse was developed in collaboration with Dres. Frank Neuner and Maggie Schauer.

Jonas Everaert

Ghent University, Belgium

Yale University, USA

Jonas Everaert, PhD is a Research scientist, Data Analyst at Gent University in Flanders, Belgium

Takefumi Kikusui

Azabu University, Kanagawa, Japan

Oxytocin and tears in non-human mammals

Takefumi Kikusui is associate professor and researcher at the Laboratory of Human-Animal Interaction and Reciprocity, School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University. His areas of interest range from social behavior, to neuroendocrinology, and inter-species interactions.

Selected papers:

  • “Endocrine Regulations in Human–Dog Coexistence through Domestication” T Kikusui, M Nagasawa, K Nomoto, S Kuse-Arata, K Mogi Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. In press.
  • “Oxytocin-gaze positive loop and the coevolution of human-dog bonds” Nagasawa M, Mitsui S, En S, Ohtani N, Ohta M, Sakuma Y, Onaka T, Mogi K, Kikusui T. Science. 2015. 348(6232):333-6
  • “The male mouse pheromone ESP1 enhances female sexual receptive behaviour through a specific vomeronasal receptor” Haga S, Hattori T, Sato T, Sato K, Matsuda S, Kobayakawa R, Sakano H, Yoshihara Y, Kikusui T, Touhara K. Nature. 2010. 466(7302):118-22.

Oxytocin and tears in non-human mammals

Emotional arousal has been shown to increase tear secretion in humans, but not yet in animals. Dogs exhibit strong attachment behaviors toward their owners. We measured tear secretions in dogs before and after emotional situations, e.g., reunions with owners and familiar non-owners, and found they only increased significantly during the former reunions. In a mouse model, oxytocin receptors were highly expressed in myoepithelial cells in the lacrimal gland, and oxytocin stimulation increased tear secretion via cell activation,  suggesting that even animals like dogs show tear secretion in response to emotional arousal via emotion-induced oxytocin secretion.

Célia Sales

University of Porto, Portugal

Célia M. D. Sales is a Researcher at the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences at the University of Porto. Her research is concerned with understanding how psychotherapy works. She is mainly interested in learning from routine real practice, the expertise of therapists and the first-hand experience of patients. Using participatory methods, she and her colleagues have developed personalized methods of measuring and monitoring therapeutic change. Her work also extends into the study of the psychosocial impact of disease. Currently she leads a multidisciplinary project that studies the psychosocial adaptation of individuals and families that present increased risk of developing cancer due to a genetic mutation. She is also involved in the study of two emerging societal challenges: the problematic use of the internet, and the development of open science best that accounts for ethical aspects of data protection.

Nisha Sajnani

New York University Steinhardt, USA

From psychotherapeutic factors to mechanisms of change in drama therapy and psychodrama

Nisha Sajnani, PhD, RDT-BCT is the Director of the NYU Program in Drama Therapy and the Theatre & Health Lab. She is a founding member of the World Alliance of Drama Therapy and Chair of the NYU Creative Arts Therapies Consortium and International Research Alliance. She is the Principal Editor of Drama Therapy Review, the journal of the North American Drama Therapy Association. 

From psychotherapeutic factors to mechanisms of change in drama therapy and psychodrama

How do theatre-based processes facilitate change in the context of psychotherapy? Dr. Sajnani will provide a conceptual overview of therapeutic factors of change in drama therapy and psychodrama, report on outcomes of a recent scoping review of therapeutic factors in the creative arts therapies, and discuss future directions in research. 

Rinat Feniger‑Schaal

University of Haifa, Emili Sagol Creative Arts Therapies Research Centre, Israel

Dr. Rinat Feniger-Schaal is leading the drama therapy and psychodrama MA program at the School of Creative Arts Therapies, the University of Haifa, Israel,  and she is also a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Child Development. She holds a master’s in Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology and an MsC in Drama Therapy. Her main research interests are connecting attachment theory to clinical therapeutic work; developmental psychopathology;  and the role of  play, drama and movement in psychotherapy. In addition to her research work she has also been working clinically mostly with adults with mental health problems and people with intellectual disability. 

Daniela Schiller

Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai NY, US

Navigating Social Space

Dr. Daniela Schiller‘s line of research focuses on the neural mechanisms underlying emotional control. Because the environment we live in is constantly changing, our learned emotional responses need to be continuously updated to appropriately reflect current circumstances. Understanding the neural mechanisms that make such emotional flexibility may shed light on the impairments leading to anxiety disorders and may also promote new forms of treatment. Dr. Schiller joined the faculty at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in 2010, where she has received Tenure in 2020, and was promoted to Professor in 2021. Dr. Schiller has developed a highly productive research lab focused on Affective Neuroscience with particular interest in emotional learning and memory and social cognition. Her lab made discoveries on the neural computations that take place when forming fear memories and their aberrance in PTSD. She has also developed a novel approach to examine dynamic social relationships by delineating navigational computations of social space in the human brain.

Navigating Social Space 

How do we place ourselves within a social structure? Social encounters provide opportunities to become intimate or estranged from others and to gain or lose power over them. The locations of others on the axes of power and intimacy can serve as reference points for our own position in the social space. The goal of our research is to uncover the neural encoding of these social coordinates. This talk will describe recent experiments tracking the online neural encoding of the perceived locations of others relative to us through dynamic interactions with multiple peers. 

Simone Shamay-Tsoory

University of Haifa, Israel

Prof. Simone Shamay-Tsoory is the director of the The Social And Affective Neuroscience Lab at the University of Haifa in Israel. Her research focuses on the neural basis of emotions and social behavior: How do we understand emotions? What are the neural underpinnings of empathy, social communication and interpersonal synchronization? Other research: The role of Oxytocin in social behavior | The neural underpinnings of social comparison and jealousy | The neural underpinnings of social touch | Chemical social communication using odor.

Daniela Vallentin

Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany

Social context-dependent vocal interactions in songbirds

Daniela Vallentin, Ph.D. is a Research Group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (since 2019) where she studies the neural circuits involved in vocal interactions in songbirds. She is particularly interested in how social contexts change singing behaviors of these animals. Daniela was a postdoc in the lab of Michael Long at the NYU School of medicine (2010-2016). During this time, she explored the neural underpinnings of song learning in zebra finches and discovered a mechanism by which learned song remains known whereas new song elements can still be learned.

Social context-dependent vocal interactions in songbirds

Although many animals communicate using sounds, songbirds are exceptionally skillful in producing learned vocalizations, much like humans. Nightingales song is a particularly sophisticated example of interactive vocalization. Male nightingales sing hundreds of songs in response to conspecifics whereby they engage in song-matching: listening to and repeating the songs sung by their rivals. We exposed nightingales with a variety of playbacks to investigate the different song strategies depending on the social context.

MET Conference is part of the project Developing a Methodology of Therapy Through Theatre with an Effect at the Neurochemical and Neurocognitive Levels, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through Competitiveness Operational  Programme  2014-2020,  SMIS code 106688 and implemented by UNATC “I.L. Caragiale”, CINETic Centre, LDCAPEI LAB.

The content of this study does not reflect the official opinion of the European Union or the Romanian Government.

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