In our next Researcher Live series, we will be focusing on ‘Brain-body Interactions and new treatments for psychiatric disorders’ – bringing you four fantastic speakers.


Join our third episode on 27th October at 4 pm BST / 3 pm GMT for a talk with Dr Ryan Smith, University of Tulsa. Sign up here to receive email reminders for this series.


What are we going to talk about in this episode? 


One important source of information the brain receives from the body is from the stomach—providing "gut feelings" that can relate to both digestion and emotion. However, signals from the body can be ambiguous, meaning the brain must take extra steps to interpret them correctly.


Current theories suggest the brain may accomplish this by combining sensory signals with prior expectations. If the brain is very confident in its prior expectations, then this can have strong influences on what is consciously felt. In this talk, I will discuss a study in which 40 participants performed a task testing perception of signals from the stomach, while also undergoing simultaneous electroencephalogram (EEG) and peripheral physiological recording. We analyzed this data using a novel computational model of how the brain processes sensory information, which allowed us to examine the way prior expectations and learning influenced perception and its neurophysiological correlates.


We found several behavioral and neuroscientific results that support the validity of this modeling approach. This includes relationships between multiple computational processes and reaction times, neural responses, and skin conductance responses indexing peripheral autonomic activity. We also found evidence that prior expectations may have stronger influences, and change more slowly, in some individuals compared to others. This sheds light on the neural and computational basis of perceiving gut feelings and may be helpful for understanding individual differences in both healthy and clinical populations.


Series programme:


  • 24th October, 4 pm BST / 3 pm GMT - ‘Interoception and mental health: integrating mind body and brain interactions’ with Dr Sahib Khalsa, University of Tulsa


  • 24th October, 6 pm BST / 5 pm GMT – ‘The brain-body axis in neurodevelopmental conditionswith Dr Eleanor Palser, University of California, San Francisco


  • 27th October, 4 pm BST / 3 pm GMT – ‘How the brain processes gut feelingswith Dr Ryan Smith, University of Tulsa


  • 28th October, 3 pm BST / 2 pm GMT – ‘Heartbeats Influence Perception and Motor Activity’ with Dr Esra AI, Columbia University
Date and Time
Thursday, October 27, 2022
04:00 pm BST / 03:00 pm GMT
Speakers Avatar Dr Ryan Smith, University of Tulsa

Dr Smith is a Principal Investigator at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research and a Research Associate Professor at the University of Tulsa. Dr Smith received his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Arizona State University. At the University of Arizona, he subsequently completed two Master’s degrees in neuroscience and philosophy, a PhD in psychology, and a subsequent postdoctoral fellowship focused on psychiatry research. Before accepting his current position, he also completed a visiting fellowship with Dr Karl Friston at University College London focused on computational modelling approaches. To date, Dr Smith’s work has led to over 100 peer-reviewed publications and scholarly book chapters. His lab focuses on understanding the neurocomputational mechanisms underlying brain-body interactions and emotion-cognition interactions in depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders, with a special focus on information-seeking behaviour, prospective planning, and interoception.

DOI: 7B1oIwdRhAGSgl0KT2Mn_prepost_4

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