PhD Program International DIM C-BRAINS

Download the eligibility criteria to apply to the DIM C-BRAINS international PhD program.

Download the Welcome booklet for the students of the DIM C-BRAINS International PhD program.

Click here to candidate on the DIM C-BRAINS online platform.

Student applications closed

PhD Program international, Édition 2023-2024

List of thesis topics (1 Overall)

List of thesis topics

ETIS UMR8051 | Neurocybernetics (a research team within ETIS)
Thesis Director : Lola CANAMERO
Subject title : Modeling Affective Cognition in Bio-Inspired Social Robotics
Acronym : MAC-BIO
Key words : embodied affective cognition, bio-inspired AI, robot modeling, homeostasis, allostasis, oxytocin, hormonal modulation, social interaction
Summary of the thesis :
Given the centrality of emotions in human cognition and interaction, taking a biologically-inspired approach to model emotions in interactive social robots is key to develop robots that at the same time can interact naturally and in socially appropriate ways with humans, and be used as scientific models to study human affective cognition. I take a "strong" approach to emotion modeling from a bio-inspired, embodied and interactional perspective, to endow robots with affective cognition capabilities that underpin and shape their emotion perception and expression skills, and take them closer to being, in a proper sense, social, interactive, and agents. In this PhD project I investigate questions around the role of oxytocin and embodied interactions on affective cognition and social interaction dynamics. The work to be carried out will develop and test a robot model for decision making in social situations embodying these research questions.
Show more
Project thesis :
Neuroscience research over the last couple of decades has provided evidence that affective phenomena (emotions, motivations, moods) pervade intelligence at many levels (Damasio, 1994; Pessoa, 2013), being inseparable from the cognition-action loop, and artificial intelligence and robotics have echoed this view (Picard, 1997; Cañamero, 2021).
In humans and other animals, emotions are part of the bioregulatory mechanisms that contribute to the maintenance of the stability of an organism's internal environment (to its viability and homeostasis), needed to survive in changing environments, including human social environments. Emotions have a number of beneficial survival-related functions, as put forward by Darwin, as well as playing key roles in decision making and social behavior, as they provide values and motives to make decisions adapted to the physical and social environment (Damasio, 1994).
These aspects are relevant for autonomous and social robots that inhabit changing environments presenting similar kinds of challenges, particularly the natural environments of humans, where they have to make timely decisions that are adaptive for themselves and adapted to the current circumstances (e.g., appropriate to overcome a specific danger or to the preferences and behavior of a specific person). However, research in affective computing, social robotics, human-robot interaction, or social signal processing, pays particular attention to the external manifestations of emotions (emotion signals, emotional expression and displays) and their influence on humans, as well as giving technology the ability to recognize those signals in humans to be able to respond to them. To most researchers, those elements are sufficient for affective human-robot interaction. Nevertheless, current interactive robots are still far from being social agents.
Towards overcoming this problem, I take the stance that modeling affective cognition beyond affect expression and recognition, while at the same time grounding them, is important both to develop social robots better suited to interactions with humans in the long term, as proper adaptive interactive social agents, and to better understand human emotions. Concerning the latter point, affective robot models properly grounded in neuroscience and other affective sciences, can provide very useful tools and highly controllable and testable models to contribute to the study and understanding of human emotions (Cañamero, 2021), by operationalizing specific neuroscientific hypotheses and research questions and generating, testing in the real world, and quantitatively analyzing observable behavior stemming from those hypotheses and questions.

From a mechanistic and functional perspective, the project will focus on oxytocin, hypothesized to have multiple roles in social interaction, to investigate the following questions:
1. Which are suitable mechanisms underlying specific social emotions (and more generally affective phenomena) and how do they permit coordinated responses at the physiological, neuro-ethological, cognitive, and social levels? How can we model equivalent mechanisms in social robots to achieve a human-robot interaction dynamics similar to human-human interaction dynamics? In particular, the project will investigate the mechanisms and roles of the hormone oxytocin in the formation of long-term social bonds and in the development of “low-level” empathy (Preston & de Waal, 2002) between humans and robots.
From the perspective of the adaptation, the project will investigate the adaptive value of emotions in the social domain:
2. How do specific capacities (e.g., of perception such as increased attention to social cues and mechanisms (e.g., oxytocin as a mechanism underlying social bonding) characteristic of social emotional states affect (in terms of costs and benefits) the social adaptation and wellbeing of individuals? In particular, the project will investigate, both in groups of robots and in human-robot interaction, the adaptive value of social bonding promoted by (natural and simulated) oxytocin in terms of benefits such as empathizing with others and complying with group norms, and costs such as the emergence of competition with members of out-groups (de Dreu & Kret, 2016) under different social contexts.
The work to be carried out will build on previous work investigating the roles of oxytocin in the formation of affective social bonds in embodied motivationally-autonomous agents simulated in an artificial life environment. Drawing on the Social Salience hypothesis of oxytocin (Shamay-Tsoory & Abu-Akel, 2016) as an underlying mechanism, this work implemented and compared contrasting views around this hypothesis, and investigated and tested the roles of oxytocin in adaptation, survival, social allostasis, and the emergence of social groups based on affective bonds, the formation of alliances, and the dynamics of their interactions (Khan & Cañamero, 2018; Khan et al., 2018; Khan et al., 2020). The proposed PhD will investigate similar and related questions using real (instead of computer simulated) robots – groups of small mobile robots interacting among themselves and with humans – focusing specially on the characterization of oxytocin as an allostatic hormone that modulates both social and non-social behavior and decision making by maintaining stability through changing environments (Quintana & Guastella, 2020), on the interplay between basic elements of empathy such as synchrony, mimicry and simple emotional contagion (Prochazkova & Kret, 2017) and the formation of affective social bonds, and on testing in diverse and changing social environments (Olff et al, 2013).

Cañamero, L. (2021). Embodied Robot Models for Interdisciplinary Emotion Research, in IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing 12(2) pp. 340-351, April-June 2021, doi: 10.1109/TAFFC.2019.2908162.
Damasio, A. (1994). Descartes’ Error: Emotion, reason, and the Human Brain. New York, NY: Avon Books.
Khan & Cañamero, L. (2018). Modelling Adaptation through Social Allostasis: Modulating the Effects of Social Touch with Oxytocin in Embodied Agents, Multimodal Technologies and Interaction, vol. 2, no. 4.
Khan, I. Lewis, M., and Cañamero, L. (2018). Adaptation and the Social Salience Hypothesis of Oxytocin: Early Experiments in a Simulated Agent Environment, in Proc. 2nd Symposium on Social Interactions in Complex Intelligent Systems (SICIS), Liverpool, UK, 2018, pp. 2–9.
Khan, Lewis, M., and Cañamero, L. (2020). Modelling the Social Buffering Hypothesis in an Artificial Life Environment”, in Proceedings of the Artificial Life Conference 2020 (ALIFE 2020), Montreal, Canada, 2020, pp. 393–401. The MIT Press.
Olff M1, Frijling JL, Kubzansky LD, Bradley B, Ellenbogen MA, Cardoso C, Bartz JA, Yee JR, van Zuiden M. (2013). The role of oxytocin in social bonding, stress regulation and mental health: an update on the moderating effects of context and interindividual differences. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38(9):1883-94.
Pessoa, L. (2013). The Cognitive-Emotional Brain: From Interactions to Integration. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Picard, R.W. (1997). Affective Computing. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Preston, S. D. & de Waal, F. B. M. (2002). Empathy: Its ultimate and proximate bases. Behavior and Brain Sciences, 25, 1-72
Prochazkova, E. & Kret, M.E. (2017). Connecting minds and sharing emotions through mimicry: A neurocognitive model of emotional contagion. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Volume 80, September 2017, Pages 99-114.
Quintana, D.S. & Guastella, A.J. (2020). An Allostatic Theory of Oxytocin. Trends in Cognitive Science 24(7): 515-528.
Shamay-Tsoory S.G. & Abu-Akel A. (2016). The Social Salience Hypothesis of Oxytocin. Biological Psychiatry, 79(3): 194-202.
Show more

Bonjour, nous sommes les cookies !
Nous servons à :
- vous suivre à des fins statistiques (Google stats)
- vous connecter dans la partie "plateforme / Appels à projets"
Vous êtes d'accord ?