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Lauri Nummenmaa

Speaker at

KEYNOTE LECTURE:
The cinematic brain: Mapping the human emotion circuits with motion pictures

18:00 - 19:00 15th October, 2022 

Lauri Nummenmaa

Human Emotion Systems Laboratory at Turku PET Centre, Finland

Lauri Nummenmaa

Speaker at

KEYNOTE LECTURE:
The cinematic brain: Mapping the human emotion circuits with motion pictures

18:00 - 19:00 15th October, 2022 

Biography

Lauri Nummenmaa is a molecular neuroscientist, a Professor in modelling and medical image processing at University of Turku in Finland, where he leads the Human Emotion Systems laboratory at Turku PET Centre and Department of Psychology

He's particularly interested in finding out how the brain processes emotions, with his main specialization being the human emotion science and medical imaging, combining both to better understand the key molecular mechanisms and neural networks behind not only our feelings in different social interactions but also mental illnesses and neurological disorders.

The group he leads is behind the once viral on the internet bodily maps of emotions, groundbreaking in showing clearly how much the bodily processes are dependent on our subjective feelings. They also try to explain many complex phenomenons, such as the popularity of art in many of it’s forms – classical paintings, cinema, but even rock music! 

Furthermore, the group studies functional and molecular neural mechanisms of obesity and weight loss, brain basis of psychopathy the synchronisation of our brains when we’re exposed to same emotions, the topography of human erogenous zones, social communication via interpersonal touch, opioid release after high-intensity interval training, fear of snakes, sociability of music and music-induced hedonia and many more – whith the group even trying to figure out what makes horror movies scary! All that in order to not only improve the overall scientific knowledge and inspire researchers but also to by having the masses understand and remember their findings – improve their health and happiness.

Talk: "The cinematic brain: Mapping the human emotion circuits with motion pictures"

Emotions promote our well-being in survival-salient situations. They are triggered by biologically relevant signals such as threats and physical harm or rewards including food consumption or social interaction. Yet, also abstract and “simulated” pleasures and threats such as love stories, misfortunes, and tragedies shown in films can trigger powerful emotions in the viewers.  In my talk I present an overview on brain mechanisms supporting human emotions and show how we can use cinema for simulating real life for studying the emotional brain. I present data from our laboratory showing how viewing emotions in films makes individuals to “tune in” with each other, and how specific neurotransmitter systems in the brain govern out vicarious experience of the emotions we see in movies.  Finally, I discuss the origins of our captivation for strong, sometimes also distressing and unpleasant, emotional movies. I propose that we are drawn to affective cinema because it provides a safe simulation environment for preparing to meet actual emotional challenges in real life.  

Selected Publications

Calvo, M.G., Nummenmaa, L., 2008. Detection of emotional faces: Salient physical features guide effective visual search. J. Exp. Psychol. Gen. 137, 471–494. 


Nummenmaa, L., Glerean, E., Hari, R., Hietanen, J.K., 2014. Bodily maps of emotions. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 111, 646–651. 


Saarimäki, H., Glerean, E., Smirnov, D., Mynttinen, H., Jääskeläinen, I.P., Sams, M., Nummenmaa, L., 2022. Classification of emotion categories based on functional connectivity patterns of the human brain. Neuroimage 247, 118800. 


Nummenmaa, L., Hyönä, J., Calvo, M.G., 2006. Eye movement assessment of selective attentional capture by emotional pictures. Emotion 6, 257–268. 


More information

Nummenmaa Lab website

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