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

Neuroscience and Theater Therapy

26-28 May 2021 | Location: Live at the University House of Bucharest and Online with registration (see the REGISTER HERE button)

CONFERENCE PROGRAM

All hour intervals below are listed as BUCHAREST TIME (GMT+3). LINK TO: Time Zone Converter – Time Difference Calculator

26 MAY 2021 – Session 1

Moderator: Alexandru I. Berceanu

1:30Registration on location (Casa Universitarilor, 46 Dionisie Lupu Street, Bucharest)
2:30 – 3:10 PMOfficial OpeningLiviu Lucaci, Rector
National University of Theatre and Film „I.L. Caragiale” Bucharest
3:10 – 3:50 PMDramatic action: Analyzing human interactions using a theater-based paradigmUri Alon
Yuvalal Liron
Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel
3:50 – 4:30 PM“In their own words”- how patients describe the helpfulness and drawbacks of psychodrama in mental health contextCélia Sales
University of Porto, Portugal
4:30 – 5:10 PMDeviating from the norm once again: Socio-economic decisions in depression and anxietyIoana Podina
University of Bucharest;
MET researcher
5:30 – 6:00 PMSocial Feedback during Sensorimotor Synchronization Changes Salivary Oxytocin and Behavioral StatesClaudiu Papasteri
University of Bucharest;
MET postdoc researcher
6:00 – 6:40 PMThe NET facts health system: How theatre can counter the mental sequelae of trauma and violence at the individual and community levelThomas Elbert
University of Konstanz, Germany
6:40 – 7:30 PMKEYNOTE: The Brains Behind MoralityPatricia Churchland
University of California, USA

27 MAY 2021 – Session 2

Moderator: Ioana Carcea

9:00 – 9.40 AMAssessing the salience of the subject’s own name by default EEG reactivityMihai Moldovan
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
9:40 – 10:20 AMHow do people make sense of ambiguous social situations? Some answers from experimental psychopathology researchJonas Everaert
Ghent University, Belgium
Yale University, USA
10:20 – 11:00 AMBehavioural, neural and immune effects of autobiographical memory retrievalDragoș Cîrneci
Spiru Haret University Bucharest, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences; MET Researcher
11:30 – 12:00 PMSpontaneous thought and EEG resting activity modulation by social imitationMiralena Tomescu
University of Bucharest; MET Postdoc Researcher
12:00 – 12:30 PMThe effects of mirror exercise in the emotional stimuli processingConstantin Augustin-Dan Pistol
University of Bucharest; MET Researcher
12:30 – 1:00 PMThe Effects of Social Imitation on Neural Activity in Intracranial RecordingsJustin Riceberg
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, USA

27 MAY 2021 – Session 3

Moderator: Ioana Podină

3:00 – 3:50 PMKEYNOTE: Emotional and Relational Impact in Drama TherapyRenée Emunah
California Institute of Integral Studies, USA
3:50 – 4:30 PM35 years in forensics, doing drama therapy with sexually violent men – what and how to measure effectJohn Bergman
Hollins University, Roanoke, VA, USA
4:30 – 5:10 PMWorking with people who have intellectual disabilities and mental ill health: giving people the chance to share their narratives through playing and storytellingJane Lester Bourne
British Association of Dramatherapists, UK

27 MAY 2021 – Session 4

Moderator: Claudiu Papasteri

5:30 – 6:00 PMThe paradox of drama – coming closer through distancingIoana Șerb
European Federation of Dramatherapy; Romanian Play Therapy and Dramatherapy Association
6:00 – 6:40 PMFrom psychotherapeutic factors to mechanisms of change in drama therapy and psychodramaNisha Sajnani
New York University Steinhardt, USA
6:40 – 7:20 PMDrama, movement and attachment: using the mirror game as a paradigm to explore human interactionRinat Feniger‑Schaal
University of Haifa, Emili Sagol Creative Arts Therapies Research Centre, Israel
7:20 – 7:50  PMThe MET approach, a standardized theatrical interventionAlexandru I. Berceanu
National University of Theatre and Film ”I.L. Caragiale” Bucharest
Alexandra Sofonea, MET researcher

28 MAY 2021 – Session 5

Moderator: Ioana Carcea

9:00 – 10:00 AMKEYNOTE: Brain mechanism of social bonding, social loss, and empathyLarry J. Young
Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, USA
10:00 – 10:40 AMOxytocin and tears in non-human mammalsTakefumi Kikusui
Azabu University, Kanagawa, Japan
10:40 – 11:20 AMSocial context-dependent vocal interactions in songbirdsDaniela Vallentin
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany
10:00 – 12:00 AMWORKSHOP at the National University of Theatre and Film “i.L. Caragiale” Bucharest (onsite, with pre-registration)Rinat Feniger‑Schaal
University of Haifa, Emili Sagol Creative Arts Therapies Research Centre, Israel
11:30 – 12:30 AMQ&A on submitted communicationsDetails about the communications and the speakers – bellow
12:30 – 1:30 PMROUNDTABLE: Dramatherapy – theoretical perspectives and practical approaches in various parts of the worldSalvo Pitruzzella
Ioana Șerb
Jane Lester Bourne
Rinat Feniger‑Schaal
Moderator:  Alexandru I. Berceanu

28 MAY 2021 – Session 6

Moderator: Miralena Tomescu

2:00 – 2:50 PMKEYNOTEStructuring experience in cognitive spacesChristian Doeller
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
2:50 – 3:30 PMHow can we objectively quantify socio-communicative sensitivity? Innovative neuroimaging approaches in autism and beyondBart Boets
Center for Developmental Psychiatry, KU Leuven, Belgium
3:30 – 4:10 PMThe Empathy Feedback Loop: A Two-Brain Approach for Understanding EmpathySimone Shamay-Tsoory
University of Haifa, Israel

28 MAY 2021 – Session 7

Moderator: Justin Riceberg

4:30 – 5:20 PMKEYNOTESocial transmission of maternal behavior by oxytocinRobert C. Froemke
New York University School of Medicine, USA
MET-UNATC, Romania
5:20 – 6:00 PMNavigating Social SpaceDaniela Schiller
Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai NY, US
6:00 – 6:40 PMBrain mechanisms of social playAlexa Veenema
Michigan State University, USA
6:40 – 7:00 PMClosing remarks on the MET ConferenceIoana Carcea
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, USA
UNATC Bucharest, Romania

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.


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KEYNOTE TALKS

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

Keynote: Structuring experience in cognitive spaces

Christian Doeller is Managing Director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS), Leipzig, Germany as well as Director at the Department of Psychology at the MPI CBS and is affiliated with the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at NTNU in Trondheim, Norway. Furthermore, he is Honorary Professor of Psychology (Learning and Memory) at Leipzig University, Germany.He received his undergraduate training in psychology and computer science at several German Universities (Würzburg, Humboldt University Berlin and Bonn). After finishing his PhD in Saarbrücken, he worked as a Research Fellow at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, UK before he was appointed as Principal Investigator and Associate Professor at the Donders Institute at Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Soon after, he became Director of the Braathen-Kavli Centre at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience and Professor of Medicine & Neuroscience at NTNU in Trondheim.
‘What are the key coding principles of the brain enabling human thinking?’ is the fundamental question in cognitive neuroscience. To tackle this largely unanswered question the Doeller lab uses two model systems: human memory and the neural population code for space.


Structuring experience in cognitive spaces

The fundamental question in cognitive neuroscience—what are the key coding principles of the brain enabling human thinking—still remains largely unanswered. Evidence from neurophysiology suggests that place and grid cells in the hippocampal-entorhinal system provide an internal spatial map, the brain’s SatNav—the most intriguing neuronal coding scheme outside the sensory system. Our framework is concerned with the key idea that this navigation system in the brain—potentially as a result of evolution—provides the blueprint for a neural metric underlying human cognition. Specifically, we propose that the brain maps experience in so-called ‘cognitive spaces’. In this talk, I will give an overview of our theoretical framework and experimental approach and will present show-case examples from our fMRI, MEG and virtual reality experiments identifying cognitive coding mechanisms in the hippocampal-entorhinal system and beyond.



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.

Recent books:

Acting for Real (Second Edition, 2020)
Current Approaches in Drama Therapy (Third Edition, 2020 – co-edited with Dr. David Johnson)

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.



INVITED TALKS

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

Center for Developmental Psychiatry, KU Leuven, Belgium

How can we objectively quantify socio-communicative sensitivity? Innovative neuroimaging approaches in autism and beyond

Bart Boets is a clinical psychologist, research professor, and head of the Center for Developmental Psychiatry (Dept. of Neurosciences, KU Leuven). His research focuses on the perceptual, cognitive, socio-affective and neural correlates of neurodevelopmental disorders, in particular autism. His group applies a variety of methodological approaches, including behavioural research, psychophysics, eye-tracking, EEG, diffusion MRI, functional MRI, and stress physiology assessment. A major translational goal is the design of objective tools to quantify socio-communicate sensitivity in various clinical populations (e.g. children and adults with autism, preterm infants, adolescents with posttraumatic stress disorder, …), and innovative interventions to enhance social functioning (e.g., intranasal oxytocin administration).


How can we objectively quantify socio-communicative sensitivity? Innovative neuroimaging approaches in autism and beyond

Even though individuals with autism display severe socio-communicative impairments in daily life, it remains challenging to objectively quantify these within a diagnostic or research context. In this presentation, I will discuss advanced neuroimaging approaches allowing to pinpoint these difficulties at an individual subject-level. First, I will provide fMRI evidence that adults with autism have intact cognitive representations of the affective meaning of social touch interactions (i.e. they “know” what is going on), but they lack embodied somatosensory resonance (i.e. they do not “feel” it). Implications for theatre therapy will be discussed. Next, I will provide an overview of studies illuminating the potential of frequency-tagging EEG as a fast, robust and reliable biomarker for subtle socio-communicative facial and vocal cues.



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

The NET facts health system: How theatre can counter the mental sequelae of trauma and violence at the individual and community level

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 (www.vivo.org). 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.


The NET facts health system: How theatre can counter the mental sequelae of trauma and violence at the individual and community level

Trauma and violent acts can lead to mental health and behavioural problems which have ramifications beyond the individual into the family, community and societal systems. Cycles of violence emerge within communities that ‘build’ on the inherited consequences of conflict-related trauma. This presentation outlines the NETfacts health system that supports theatrical reprocessing of the emotional arousing times to counter the consequences of violence at the individual and community level.



Jonas Everaert

Ghent University, Belgium

Yale University, USA

How do people make sense of ambiguous social situations? Some answers from experimental psychopathology research

Jonas Everaert is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Experimental Clinical and Health Psychology at Ghent University. His research has centered on the question of how people interpret ambiguous social situations and what happens if this goes awry. Dr. Everaert’s research bridges cognitive, affective, and social science approaches to uncover the nature, causes, and effects of biased interpretations and inflexible belief revision to develop transdiagnostic and transtherapeutic models of psychopathology.


How do people make sense of ambiguous social situations? Some answers from experimental psychopathology research



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.



Mihai Moldovan

University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Assessing the salience of the subject’s own name by default EEG reactivity

Assoc. Prof. Mihai Moldovan MD PhD graduated from „Carol Davila” University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest. He then moved to Denmark to carry out his PhD studies at the University of Copenhagen, where he continues his research and teaching across the Institute of Neuroscience and the Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Rigshospitalet.

Although based in Denmark, he plays an active role in the development of the Romanian neurophysiology. He currently serves as the president of the National Neuroscience Society of Romania and as scientific director of Romanian Society for Electrodiagnostic Neurophysiology, while supervising university research projects. He is particularly interested in the development of translational neurophysiology methods along the entire development cycle, from mechanistic basic science experiments through human clinical studies to innovative technologies for the benefit of patients with brain and neuromuscular disorders.

www.comaeeg.ro


Assessing the salience of the subject’s own name by default EEG reactivity

The brain is constantly exposed to a plethora of stimuli arriving through multiple sensory channels. At any given time, some stimuli capture attention and “pop-out” from other stimuli. We recently introduced a method and apparatus to compare the attentional impact (salience) of complex sensory stimuli (EP3646784B1) by measuring the reactive changes in the electrical activity of the brain recorded by electroencephalography (EEG). Specifically, we proposed to measure the extent to which a stimulation protocol suppresses the resting network activity by calculating the default EEG reactivity (DER), numerically ranging from 0 (no suppression) to 100%. It remained unclear the extent to which DER reflects conscious or unconscious attention mechanisms. Here we measured in a group of 13 healthy control adult volunteers the DER to a very salient auditory stimulus, the subjects own name (SON) by comparison with the name in reverse (rSON), which carries an equivalent acoustic energy. We found that the DER was larger for SON than for rSON. The difference in DER, referred to as the salient EEG reactivity (SER) was 10.47 ± 2.6 % (Mean ± SEM). In contrast, SER was abolished to 0.56 ± 1.8 % in a group of 14 post-stroke comatose patients. These data suggest that DER reflects, at least in part, conscious processes. To minimize the emotional dimension of the stimulus, we focused on SON stimuli generated by a voice synthesizer. Nevertheless, by using non-neutral voices, our testing paradigm could easily be extended to explore the emotional impact on DER in future studies.



Salvo Pitruzzella

Fine Arts Academy of Palermo, Italy

ROUNDTABLEDramatherapy – theoretical perspectives and practical approaches in various parts of the world

Salvo Pitruzzella is a pioneer of dramatherapy in Italy. Starting from a background as an actor, playwright and puppeteer, he has been working as a dramatherapist for over twenty-five years in different fields, mainly mental health, education and long-life learning, and social care. Dramatherapy course leader at the “Centro ArtiTerapie”, Lecco, Italy. Professor of Arts Education at the Fine Arts Academy of Palermo, Italy. International Member of the BADTh (British Association of Dramatherapists), and member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Dramatherapy Journal. Honorary Member of the SPID (Società Professionale Italiana di Drammaterapia). Member of the Executive Board of the EFD (European Federation of Dramatherapy). Italian Representative at ECArTE (European Consortium for Arts Therapies Education). External examiner of the MA Drama and Movement Therapy at the Royal School of Speech and Drama, London, UK. He has widely published on dramatherapy, educational theatre, and creativity theories.


ROUNDTABLEDramatherapy – theoretical perspectives and practical approaches in various parts of the world



Célia Sales

University of Porto, Portugal

“In their own words”- how patients describe the helpfulness and drawbacks of psychodrama in mental health context

Célia M. D. Sales is an Associate Professor at the University of Porto, psychotherapist, and former Vice-President of the Portuguese Association of Family and Community Therapy. Her main research interests focus on the monitoring of psychological treatments in routine contexts, and the psychological adaptation of families to hereditary cancer.


“In their own words”- how patients describe the helpfulness and drawbacks of psychodrama in mental health context



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

Drama, movement and attachment: using the mirror game as a paradigm to explore human interaction

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. 


Drama, movement and attachment: using the mirror game as a paradigm to explore human interaction

Although the use of drama for healing goes back as far as ancient Greece, where theater was appreciated for its remedial aspect, it is only in recent years that the use of theatre in  therapeutic context receive substantial empirical evidence through academic studies. As dramatherapists, we are called to connect the practice of dramatherapy to clear conceptualization and empirical evidence. This talk will focus on the use of a common exercise from theatre practice-the mirror game-to explore attachment styles in adulthood. The playful dyadic interaction of the mirror game contains rich non-verbal information that can be informative for assessment and intervention.



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 been directing a 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. 



Ioana Șerb

European Federation of Dramatherapy; Romanian Play Therapy and Dramatherapy Association

The paradox of drama – coming closer through distancing

Ioana Șerb is also a play therapist and dramatherapist. She works both with adults and children, using the creative tools of play and drama. Her 15 years of experience covers working with anxiety and depression, behavior issues, severe mental health problems, issues in and after institutional care. At the same time, as trainer and supervisor, she is is leading the play therapy and Dramatherapy programme in Romania. Ioana is founder member and president of the Romanian Play Therapy and Dramatherapy Association and Vicepresident of the European Federation of Dramatherapy.


The paradox of drama – coming closer through distancing

The presentation will look at the way in which Dramatherapy works with roles, props, costumes to create distance from the day to day reality. The framework of the dramatic reality ensures the psychological containment and safety for the client to explore and express deep parts of their self, intense feelings, traumatic memories, vulnerable aspects of their personality. The ‘distanced’ roles will allow projection to come into action, avoiding defenses and the risk of being overwhelmed.



Simone Shamay-Tsoory

University of Haifa, Israel

The Empathy Feedback Loop: A Two-Brain Approach for Understanding Empathy

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.


The Empathy Feedback Loop: A Two-Brain Approach for Understanding Empathy

We recently proposed a brain model that characterizes how empathic reactions alleviate the distress of a target. In a series of experiments we examined brain-to-brain coupling during empathic interactions. We show that, brain-to-brain coupling in the observation-execution (mirror) network increases in empathy conditions. Critically we found that brain-tpwas correlate with distress regulation in the target, indicating that brain-to-brain coupling during empathic interactions may contribute to distres.Similarly, using a serial dual-fMRI approach we show a shared activity between the target and the empathizer during hand-holding.



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.



Alexa Veenema

Michigan State University, USA

Brain mechanisms of social play

Dr. Alexa Veenema is Director of the Neurobiology of Social Behavior Laboratory and Associate Professor in Behavioral Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience Program at Michigan State University. Dr. Veenema’s research aims to better understand the neural basis of social behavior and how this is affected by sex and age. Her research has demonstrated that differences between males and females in vasopressin and oxytocin brain systems contribute to the sex-specific regulation of social behavior. Her research will shed light on typical and atypical human social functioning and will provide mechanistic insights into why social disorders like autism spectrum disorder show a strong sex-bias in prevalence.


Brain mechanisms of social play

Playing with peers in children and young animals is essential for the development of lifelong social competence and social skills. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulties with this social play which contributes to their lifelong social dysfunction. ASD is more prevalent in males than in females, suggesting sex differences in the etiology of ASD. Developing effective means to restore social play in children with ASD will improve their lifelong social functioning, but this requires understanding of the neural basis of social play and potential sex differences herein. In this talk I will discuss neurobiological mechanisms driving social play behavior with specific emphasis on the involvement of the neuropeptide vasopressin.



MET SPEAKERS

Alexandru I. Berceanu & Alexandra Sofonea

National University of Theatre and Film ”I.L. Caragiale” Bucharest

The MET approach,  a standardized theatrical intervention

Alexandru Berceanu, is a mixing realities director and an associate professor at AI (Animation and Interaction) Department at UNATC IL Caragiale, Bucharest Romania. He initiated and managed CINETic centre. He authored the book Breaking the punishment paradigm, a moving image of the representation of violence in theatre and media (Editura Universitară 2019) and several research articles. Alexandru Berceanu interest in digital interaction and neuroscience started during his PhD study, where he worked on a BCI interfaces time for detecting arousal changes of the spectators along other aspects of psychophysiology involved in theatrical representations of violence.

My practice has as core the potential of art and game as emotional and social development environment. Games and theatrical game in particular provide a special frame for development and natural learning. I am interested in understanding how games contribute in shaping human society through artistic practice and by developing knowledge on their biological substrate through neuroscience, neuroaesthetics and experimental psychology tools.



Alexandra Sofonea has a PhD in Theater, is a Research Assistant  at the International Center for Research and Education in Creative Technologies (CINETic) collaborating in the MET and STAD projects, and is also an Assistant Professor at the National University of Theater and Film in Bucharest. Her thesis and personal research has focused on the psychology of stage performers, mainly on the mental health of professional actors. 


The MET approach,  a standardized theatrical intervention

Aimed at managing stress and fostering prosocial attitudes the MET intervention was developed in a series of experiments with more the 900 subjects. During the COVID lockdownd in Bucharest MET intervention was applied online on a diverse group of subjects. Results and future directions will be presented.



Dragoș Cîrneci

Spiru Haret University Bucharest, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences; MET Researcher

Behavioural, neural and immune effects of autobiographical memory retrieval

Dragoş Cȋrneci has a PhD in Psychology specializing in cognitive neuroscience. He has 23 years of academic experience and is currently an associate professor at Spiru Haret University, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences. He worked for almost 10 years as a researcher at the Romanian Academy and since 2016 he is a scientific researcher at the International Center for Research and Education in Creative Technologies (CINETic) – Laboratory of Cognitive Development and Applied Psychology through Immersive Experiences. His main interest is in psycho-neuro-immunology investigating the connection between brain’s network involved in autobiographical memory and immune response. He published 4 books and collaborated at another 4. You can find his work here.


Behavioural, neural and immune effects of autobiographical memory retrieval

Numerous studies have highlighted the therapeutic role of autobiographical recollection in both depression and stress-induced illness and in optimizing the cognitive functions of older people. The present study aimed to verify which way of stimulating autobiographical memory is more effective, as well as to investigate the neural mechanisms involved in retrieval. We also tested the effectiveness and the mechanisms involved in a 4 weeks autobiographical retrieval training using odor-evoked memory procedure, on healthy adult subjects.



Claudiu Papasteri

University of Bucharest; MET Postdoc Researcher

Social Feedback during Sensorimotor Synchronization Changes Salivary Oxytocin and Behavioral States

Claudiu C. Papasteri, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and assistant professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Bucharest. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Bucharest with an interdisciplinary thesis on Psycho-Oncology, which encompasses studies on epidemiology, intervention targeting, intervention development and psychotherapy process-research. Since 2016, he is a postdoctoral fellow at the International Center for Research and Education in Creative Technologies (CINETic) collaborating in the MET and STAD projects. His work is focused on psychometric test development, computerized tasks, and psychological and psychophysiology data analysis.


Social Feedback during Sensorimotor Synchronization Changes Salivary Oxytocin and Behavioral States

Social imitation produces strikingly similar psychological effects to exogenous oxytocin administration. We designed a social imitation task to investigate the role of social approval in inducing biochemical and psychological changes following behavioral synchrony. Findings show the existence of distinct mechanisms for behavioral versus hormonal changes following social imitation, and indicate that gender and personality traits should be carefully considered when designing behavioral therapies for improving social attitudes and stress management.



Constantin Augustin-Dan Pistol

University of Bucharest; MET Researcher

The effects of mirror exercise in the emotional stimuli processing

Constantin Augustin-Dan Pistol is a graduate of Faculty of Physics (Medical-Physics specialization) from University of Bucharest. Within the same faculty, he attended and graduated the master’s degree studies, between 2015 and 2017. In September 2017, he was admitted to the doctoral degree of the Doctoral School of Physics, specialization: Biophysics and Medical-Physics. 

From a professional point of view, between 2015 and 2017 he worked as a physicist, at the Horia Hulubei National Institute for R&D in Physics and Nuclear Engineering (IFIN-HH). Starting with 2017, he carried his activity within the research team of which he is still part, the main attributions being in the field of stereotaxy and electrophysiology, participating in various research projects where he obtained significant results, later published in speciality journals. At the end of 2017, he started the collaboration with the research team from Cinetic center, where he has brought his contribution in the EEG experiments of MET and STAD projects.

Since 2018, he also holds the position of Assistant professor within the Department of Electricity, Solid Physics and Biophysics from Faculty of Physics, University of Bucharest.


The effects of mirror exercise in the emotional stimuli processing

The most important aim of this study is to highlight the plastic brain changes determined by social interaction that take place during optimal theatrical techniques.For this, we have collected and analyzed scalp EEG data from a group of subjects which performed the social task and were visual stimulated using a specific visual stimulation paradigm.



Ioana Podină

University of Bucharest; MET Researcher

Deviating from the norm once again: Socio-economic decisions in depression and anxiety

Ioana R. Podina is a psychotherapist and Associate professor at the University of Bucharest (UB). She is currently the head of the Cognitive Clinical Sciences Laboratory from UB and team member of the MET project.


Deviating from the norm once again: Socio-economic decisions in depression and anxiety

Recent studies show that depression is more than extreme sadness and anxiety more than extreme worry. The current lecture challenges the old fashioned ways of thinking about depression and anxiety as compartmentalised issues that affect a small spectrum of the population and introduces new ways in which these mental health issues affect our everyday decisions making processes.



Justin Riceberg

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, USA

The Effects of Social Imitation on Neural Activity in Intracranial Recordings

Justin Riceberg is Postdoctoral Fellow at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.


The Effects of Social Imitation on Neural Activity in Intracranial Recordings



Miralena Tomescu

University of Bucharest; MET Postdoc Researcher

Spontaneous thought and EEG resting activity modulation by social imitation

Miralena I. Tomescu, Ph.D. is a Scientific Research Associate at CINETic research institute and Associate Professor at the University of Bucharest, Psychology Faculty where she teaches cognitive and clinical neuroscience. Her core research interests are focused on neuronal mechanisms of social interaction, stress regulation and neurogenetic vulnerability to mental disorders. During her Ph.D. and post-doctoral studies at the Functional Brain Mapping Lab, University of Geneva, she studied gender specific trajectories of brain development and early neurophysiological markers for genetically determined schizophrenia by investigating fast-changing spontaneous dynamics of large-scale neuronal networks and their association with psychopathology.


Spontaneous thought and EEG resting activity modulation by social imitation

The human mind wanders spontaneously and frequently, revisiting the past and imagining the future of self and of others. External and internal factors can influence wandering spontaneous thoughts and brain microstate EEG temporal dynamics however less is known about the beneficial effects of social imitation and it’s neuronal substrate in humans. Social imitation-sensitive features of spontaneous thoughts correlate with personality traits which in parallel predict imitation-induced changes in EEG microstate temporal dynamics. Thus, as a function of personality traits, social imitation can induce selective modulations of ongoing dynamics in specific neural networks associated with spontaneous thought patterns that might mitigate stress related symptomatology.



Q&A on SUBMITTED COMMUNICATIONS

28 May 2021, 11:40 – 12:30 AM


1. Not all those who wander are lost: a virtual reality experience of Alzheimer’s disease

Nofar Laor, Hadassah Academic College, Jerusalem; Gregory Peters-Founshtein, Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem; Prof. Yair Bartal, School of Computer Science & Engineering, Jerusalem, Israel.

As Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is increasingly gaining recognition as a health-and social-care priority, patients–caregivers relations gain special attention.  AD is a terminal neurodegenerative disease, and therefore AD patient’s welfare is highly dependent on informed and emphatic care. The primary caregivers are often the patient’s children and spouse, themselves struggling with their new responsibilities, as well as the cognitive changes undertaking the patients. Unable to make sense of the confusion and disorientation overtaking by AD patients, caregivers often experience “Compassion fatigue”, expressed as anger, depression, and apathy. 

To address caregivers’ difficulty in providing informed and emphatic care we have designed a fully interactive and immersive virtual reality (VR) experience with the intention to simulate the experience of disorientation in AD. In VR participants embody an elderly AD patient, as she attempts to perform simple, everyday tasks. The unfolding narrative exposes the different signs and symptoms that patients go through, creating an experience that’s intent on provoking disorientation in space, time and person in a manner true to AD pathology. 

The VR experience was jointly developed by clinicians, animators, and designers, focusing on disorientation in the domains of space, time, and person. An experimental evaluation of this experience revealed a high level of agreement between subjective complaints by VR participants and AD patients, as well as higher emotional effect in participants personally familiar with AD – jointly attesting to the potential to mitigate the effects of compassion fatigue using VR. 


2. Poetry-elicited emotions: Links with individual differences in empathy, imagery, and proneness to fantasizing

Simina Pitur & Andrei C. Miu, Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Poetry-elicited emotions have recently come into the focus of empirical aesthetics. Experimental studies have shown that people do feel emotions in response to poetic language, and not just perceive emotions expressed by the text, and that formal patterns such as meter or rhyme can increase their intensity. However, it is still unclear (1) what kind of emotions poetry elicits, (2) which individual differences explain differences in poetry-elicited emotions (3) what the underlying mechanisms are. The present study addressed these issues. First, participants completed an on-line survey, which assessed reading experience, trait empathy, visual, movement and auditory imagery and proneness to fantasizing. Second, a 30-minutes reading session was followed by a retrospective evaluation of their emotional responses and possible emotion-eliciting mechanisms (i.e., poetry-related empathy, visual imagery, movement imagery and auditory imagery for words and for sounds). Results of a hierarchical multiple regression analyses showed that participants with greater reading experience, better auditory imagery control and a stronger inclination to fantasize experienced more intense emotions while reading poetry. Several mechanisms were identified by further analyses, as poetry-related empathy, visual imagery and auditory imagery for words mediated the relation between reading experience and emotion intensity. Finally, a group of aesthetic, pleasing and epistemic emotions more often appeared together and, on average, were more intense than the others. Practical implications for future research and for theater practitioners are discussed.


3. Divine Foolery – ritual, resonance, love, release and solution to conflict through pure play

Sebastian Badarau, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.  


4. The Therapeutic Potential of Live Action Role-playing Games: Cognitive Considerations

Elektra Diaklolambrianou, Institution for Counseling and Psychological Studies; Sarah Lynne Bowman, Josefin Westborg & Josephine Baird, Uppsala University, Sweden.

This talk will discuss the potential of live-action role-playing games (larps) as vehicles for embodied experiential learning and therapeutic interventions. Larp is a type of improvisational performance that involves spontaneous co-creation between players enacting characters in a fictional setting for a bounded period of time. This format encourages agency and collaboration as a means to playfully co-construct identity and reality within a group setting, which can lead to an increased sense of internal locus of control, as well as meta-reflection (Bowman and Hugaas 2021). First, we will contextualize larp with relationship to other therapeutic modalities that use storytelling and/or role enactment , e.g. psychodrama, sociodrama, Gestalt, narrative therapy, Integral Family Systems, inner child work, drama therapy, person-centred therapy etc. (Burns 2014; Diakolambrianou 2021). We will then discuss some of the cognitive elements that make larp particularly useful as a tool, including the development of perspective taking, empathy, and metacognitive awareness through the dual consciousness of identification with character and aesthetic distancing. We will explore larp’s potential as a vehicle for learning — including its limitations — with an emphasis on theories of assimilation, accommodation, and cognitive dissonance, e.g. Knud Illeris’ work (2006) building upon concepts from Jean Piaget. Finally, we will discuss a specific example of the ways players can use larp as a playground to experiment with identity and personally transform. This example will center upon player who use role-playing as a space for queer performance where they can feel secure enough in their containment to physically present as different gender identities than were assigned to them at birth. This process can not only feel radically liberating for queer participants, but can be paired with adjunctive therapeutic modalities to aid in their process of transitioning their gender socially outside of playful spaces. Thus, we will consider the potential of larp as a transformational container or holding environment (Bion 1959; Winnicott 1960) for experimentation that can support other therapeutic processes occurring parallel to play. References Bion, Wilfred P. 1959. Experiences in Groups. Bowman, Sarah Lynne, and Kjell Hedgard Hugaas. 2021. “Magic is Real: How Role-playing Can Transform Our Identities, Our Communities, and Our Lives.”


5. The risks of treating trauma: how secondary trauma impacts psychopatology in mental healthcare providers – a meta-analysis

Alexandra Eni, Stefan Heller & Ioana R. Podina, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Science, University of Bucharest, Romania.

Secondary trauma occurs when an individual is exposed to stories of traumatized people, graphic content of a disaster or any other form of indirect traumatization. Mental healthcare providers are probably more impacted than any other healthcare occupation, yet their mental health condition is often neglected. In the current meta-analysis we aimed to investigate the impact of secondary trauma (secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma) on the mental health condition (PTSD, anxiety, depression) of mental healthcare providers. A random effect size model including 19 studies was used to pool the effect sizes. The results indicate a medium overall effect size for the secondary trauma – psychopatology connection. The trauma history and work exprience are potential moderators amongst other variables. Overall, the results of this meta-analysis raise awareness in regards to the impact of secondary trauma on the mental health condition of mental health providers.


6. The Act of Love

Ada Gales, National Theatre Bucharest, Romania.

Taking into consideration that repeated changes in our ordinary behaviour through adopted “in character” behaviours could have an impact on the way we act and perceive ourselves in everyday life, I tried to focus on a particular aspect. I have written my dissertation paper to understand how the artistic environment in which we work (and live, more or less) could foster the appearance of attraction between actors and actresses. Disponilility, imagination, proximity, vulnerability, trust, pain, and the multiple identities one might play with as an actor/actress during rehearsals, have been analysed and considered factors that would favour the appearance of attraction. Moreover, I have used the same factors to look upon my own professional journey. The attractions that have arisen and the impact this had on my creative process. It also expanded my capacity of personal enquiry, detachment, better observation and humour. I constantly investigate how our acting skills could benefit from introspection, from the understanding of our emotional, behavioural and cognitive mechanisms.

I developed a study, where 175 actors and actresses confessed that the appearance of attraction is not a secluded phenomenon and that it happens repeatedly during rehearsals or while filming. Besides the fact that every actor/actress that answered the survey had at least once confronted himself/herself with the situation in which he/she felt attracted to his/hers partner, it came to my understanding that it has been very helpful to them to be able to have this matter addressed. The general feedback was that it is reassuring to have “well known things” and maybe somewhat taboo in our society, taken into consideration and explained. To conclude, the question I am rising is the necessity of a mental and emotional artistic hygiene that could be beneficial both for the creatives but in the same time, as we understand more, for the general public, or for ways in which theatre could be used for wellbeing besides entertainment.


7. Neural circuits for social behavior adaptations to environmental temperature

Zahra Adahman, Rumi Oyama & Ioana Carcea, MD/PhD, The State University of New Jersey, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology & Neuroscience, Newark, NJ; Taiga Abe, Columbia University, Department of Neuroscience and the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, New York, NY; Justin Riceberg, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Nash Family Department of Neuroscience, New York, NY.  

Thermoperception is essential for survival. In mammals, changes in environmental temperature induce both autonomic and behavioral thermoregulatory responses. One of these behavioral adaptations, increased social aggregation in cold temperature, improves insulation and energy conservation. At warm temperature, animals tend to disperse. In a co-housing assay, we model the nuclear colony formed by mice in the wild and detect temperature-dependent changes in mouse social aggregation. Interestingly, at warmer temperature mice maintain a larger social distance and build a smaller nest compared to room temperature. On the contrary, at colder temperature social distance decreases and mice build a larger nest around pups.

To understand the neural circuits controlling temperature-modulated social aggregation, we investigated the activity of hypothalamic neurons that secrete the vasopressin and oxytocin neuropeptide. Both vasopressin and oxytocin play important roles in maternal care, attachment and other aspects of social behaviors. In single unit recordings of optogenetically identified oxytocin neurons and unlabeled hypothalamic neurons in females, we observe increased activity after entering the nest, which is about 7°C warmer than the cage environment. In addition, we observe that vasopressin neurons in the hypothalamus are activated by warm temperature. Taken together, we hypothesize that warmer environmental temperatures control several components of social aggregation and nest-building by modulating the firing of oxytocin and vasopressin hypothalamic cells. Using a combination of activity-dependent gene expression and retrograde tracing, we will investigate the neural circuit mechanisms by which temperature information might reach oxytocin and vasopressin cells, and the extent to which these circuits control social aggregation distance and nest-building in response to environmental temperature.


8. Neuroendocrine mechanisms for social buffering of autonomic responses to stress

Rumi Oyama & Ioana Carcea, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Social interactions can buffer the negative effects of stress, and the oxytocin hormone has been previously implicated, however the mechanisms remain poorly understood. We find that the oxytocin receptor is expressed in the posterior hypothalamus, a pre-autonomic structure that can modulate heart rate in rodents and in people. Other neurons in this area, particularly those expressing the receptor for the corticotropin-releasing factor, have been shown to project to brain stem structures modulating cardiac function, and their activation increased heart rate. We predict that neurons in the posterior hypothalamus expressing the oxytocin receptor will counteract these effects on heart rate, and that their activation during stress could buffer the effects of stress on heart rate.


9. Internal visceral states in social behavior

Hunter Lanovoi & Ioana Carcea, Rutgers Brain Health Institute

An animals ability to approach or avoid a social partner is a dynamic neurobiological process that balances social stimuli with the internal state of the animal. The internal state is comprised of information about the physiological, immunological, and metabolic state of the internal organs, such as those involved in digestion. Changes in the composition of microbes residing in the gut, as during indigestion or after antibiotic treatment, have a particularly noticeable effect on engagement in social interactions. These behavioral effects likely developed as a safeguard to prevent the spread of disease. However, the neuroendocrine mechanisms supporting this effect are still unclear. A major structure that responds to noxious visceral signals is the parabrachial nucleus (PBN), particularly neurons in this area that express the calcitonin gene-related peptide. These neurons send projections to the central amygdala (CeA), which controls the balance between approach and avoidance. To determine how this neural circuit might interact with neuroendocrine systems for social behavior, particularly the oxytocinergic system, we first defined the expression pattern of the oxytocin receptor in the PBN and CeA, finding that both structures robustly express the oxytocin receptor. We then determined the synaptic connections of these neurons expressing the oxytocin receptors. We find that oxytocin receptor neurons in CeA receive inputs from PBN neurons. We will continue by using techniques to identify and manipulate neuronal connections in mice with changes to the internal state, with the goal of defining neuroendocrine mechanisms by which abnormal internal visceral states drive changes in social approach and avoidance.



The conference hosts 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.

Timeline

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 29 April and close on 15 of May 2021.

26-28 May 2021 Conference Neuroscience and Theatre Therapy

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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