My research interests have emreged from this question: How come human beings have different emotional impressions and expressions even in the case that they share the same emotional trigger?
Imagine, for example, two people are watching a documentary show on TV where a dog has died from a car accident, and one of them starts to sob but another becomes enraged. Why so different?
There should be many influencers on the result such as experience in childhood, experience raising pets or not, even health condition on that given day.
However, apart from those acquired factors, I would like to focus my attention on more innate and biological factors, specifically, on the neuronal machanisms of emotion in our brains.
I previously majored in the plant biology during undergraduate study, especially in epigenetics at Seoul National University, Republic of Korea.
However, my interests were rather on the brain and humans. Hence, I decided to come to the Primate Research Institute as there seemed to be more opportunities for me to learn and practice intensively.
So now, I am researching the macaque brain.
Currently, our team is focusing on the primate nucleus accumbens (NAc), which has been considered one of the important parts comprising the emotional circuit in the brain, to examine whether the NAc is involved in value judgment, not only in regulating motivation. For that, we trained Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata) to perform two separate decision-making tasks under the situations of Approach-Avoidance (Ap-Av) conflict and Approach-Approach (Ap-Ap) conflict.
So, what are the Ap-Av conflict and Ap-Ap conflict? The Ap-Av conflict emerges under the circumstances where an individual is forced to decide whether to accept or reject an offer that has both positive and negative aspects (e.g., deciding for a new job offer promising high salary but requesting heavy workload), which thus arises in the process of cost-benefit analysis of the conflicting valences. In contrast, the Ap-Ap conflict results from competing motivations toward more than one desirable offers (e.g., which flavor of ice creams to buy). Several studies hypothesized that the Ap-Av and Ap-Ap conflicts differentially influence motivation or valuation processes (Miller, 1944; Hall et al., 2011). So far, a number of studies have suggested the NAc plays an important role in motivational processing but it is still unclear whether the primate NAc has a dissociable mechanism for motivation and valuation. To address this, we carried out single-unit recordings from the NAc of the trained monkey in performing the tasks and will try to activate(or deactivate) the NAc artificially by using DREADDs in order to observe how it affects the monkey's decision.
Please visit the homepage of our lab!
e-Mail : jungmin [dot] oh [dot] 57a [at] st [dot] kyoto-u [dot] ac [dot] jp