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Ralph Adolphs

Bren Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Biology; Allen V. C. Davis and Lenabelle Davis Leadership Chair, Caltech Brain Imaging Center; Director, Caltech Brain Imaging Center
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B.S., Stanford University, 1986; M.S., 1986; Ph.D., Caltech, 1993. Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, 2004-05; Bren Professor, 2005-; Professor of Biology, 2005-17; Davis Leadership Chair, 2017-; Director, Caltech Brain Imaging Center, 2008-13 and 2017-.

Research Interests

Psychological and neurological investigations of human emotion and social cognition

Chen Institute

Director of the Caltech Brain Imaging Center

Psychological and neurological investigations of human emotion and social cognition

How do our brains process information about other people? How, for instance, do we look at other people's faces, how do we allocate attention to them, and how do we make inferences about their internal states from their observed behavior? When you see someone cry, you infer that they feel sad (and you may empathetically feel sad yourself)—what processes mediate these inferences, and what brain structures implement them?

To investigate these questions, we are conducting neuroimaging experiments in people that reveal which regions of the brain are activated during social cognition. We are also conducting studies in neurological individuals with focal brain lesions to reveal behavioral impairments on social cognition tasks, as well as intracranial electrophysiology in neurosurgical patients with implanted depth electrodes. Our focus concerns the amygdala, a structure known to be involved in social behavior.

Additional studies use neuroimaging of the fractional anisotropy of water movement in axons to construct probabilistic maps of the structural connectivity in the human brain, again with an emphasis on connections of the amygdala, behavioral and imaging studies of people with autism, and studies in people with agenesis of the corpus callosum.