Colloquium Cognitive Systems

The entangled brain: the integration of emotion, motivation, and cognition

Prof. Luiz Pessoa (University of Maryland, USA)


Abstract: Research on the “emotional brain” often focuses on particular structures, such as the amygdala and the ventral striatum. In this presentation, I will discuss research that embraces a distributed view of both emotion- and motivation-related processing, as well as efforts to unravel the impact of emotion and motivation across large-scale cortical-subcortical brain networks. In the framework presented, emotion and motivation have broad effects on brain and behavior, leading to the idea of the “entangled brain” where brain parts dynamically assemble into coalitions that support complex cognitive-emotional behaviors. According to this view, it is argued that decomposing brain and behavior in terms of standard mental categories (perception, cognition, emotion, etc.) is counterproductive.

Bio: Luiz Pessoa received his BSc and MSc degrees in Computer Science and Computer Engineering from Federal Univ. Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 1989 and 1990, graduated 1996 with PhD in Computational Neuroscience at Boston Univ. (USA), and served afterwards as Assistant Professor in Computer Science and Engineering at Fed. Univ. Rio de Janeiro. From 1999 ‘til 2003 he was a visiting fellow at the Nat’l Inst. of Mental Health (NIH, Bethesda, USA) and continued his academic career as Assistant Professor at Brown Univ., Associate Professor with tenure at Indiana Univ., and as Full Professor of Psychology (with affiliation in the Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering) at Univ. of Maryland (College Park, USA). There, Luiz leads the lab of Cognition and Emotion. In addition, he is the Director of the Maryland Neuroimaging Center at College Park, and he has served as part of the steering committee for the Brain and Behavior Initiative at Univ. of Maryland since its creation in 2014. Luiz’ research investigates the interaction of brain processes and how reward influence processing in visual perception and for attention/cognition. Specifically, his investigations reveal how sensitivity is shaped by specific brain system and mechanisms. The results foster the development of a conceptual framework of strong interactions and interactions of emotional/motivational signal with those associated with perception/cognition. Based on his numerous scientific publications he authored two books that summarize the experimental findings and outline the underlying theoretical framework, namely “The Cognitive-Emotional Brain: From Interactions to Integration” (MIT Press, 2013) and the very recently published “The Entangled Brain: How Perception, Cognition, and Emotion Are Woven Together” (MIT Press, 2022).


Time & Date
5-7 ct
Room 47.0.501 (Teaching block WWP)

Universität West
Albert-Einstein-Allee 47
89081 Ulm

Local Host:
Prof. Dr. Heiko Neumann

Maryland Neuroimagining Center