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Giandomenico Iannetti

University College London
Learning from pain: towards a taxonomy of defensive behaviours
01 September 2017 -
31 January 2018

Giandomenico Iannetti is professor of neuroscience at University College London (UCL), where he leads an interdisciplinary research group (www.iannettilab.net) based at the Department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology. He uses psychophysical and neurophysiological approaches to conduct experiments that investigate fundamental questions about human perception and behaviour. His research focuses on pain, defence and peripersonal space. His interdisciplinary research approach has led to collaborative publications with scholars from other fields such as computer science, engineering, linguistics, visual culture, and philosophy. He authored over 120 peer-reviewed papers and has been cited in more than 7,500 publications. He was the recipient of several awards, including the 2012 Patrick D. Wall Investigator Award for Basic Science from the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) and the 2014 Camillo Golgi Prize from the Accademia dei Lincei. His research group is funded by programme grants from The Wellcome Trust and the European Research Council (ERC).

Research interests

Pain; Defence; Peripersonal space

Learning from pain: towards a taxonomy of defensive behaviours

The ability to move spontaneously and independently in the world is the hallmark of organisms belonging to the animal kingdom. The unique property of locomotion profoundly changes the way in which animals cope with environmental threats that constantly imperil their survival. Appropriate defence from environmental threats strongly relies on two key functions of the nervous system: the ability to (1) estimate the potential of environmental events to harm the body, and (2) deploy a motor repertoire that actually defends the organism from the potential injuries caused by environmental threats. Given that the potential damage caused by an environmental threat increases with proximity to the body, animals perform more effective defensive responses when threatening stimuli occur in a portion of space termed the defensive peripersonal space.
I plan to do theoretical work on the concept of peripersonal space and defensive responses, and investigate how these are shaped by pain and previous experiences. The concepts of peripersonal space and defence are closely related to some of the most human characteristics, including social interactions, cultural differences, and the use of tools.

Key publications

Giandomenico Iannetti, et al., « Beyond metaphor: contrasting mechanisms of social and physical pain », Trends in Cognitive Sciences, August 2013; 17(8):371-8

Giandomenico Iannetti, Rory John Bufacchi, « Gravitational cues modulate the shape of defensive peripersonal space », Current Biology, 26(21), November 2016, R1133-R1134

Giandomenico Iannetti, et L. Hu, « Painful issues in pain prediction », Trends in Neurosciences, April 2016; 39(4):212-20

Giandomenico Iannetti, M. Liang  et al., « Primary Sensory Cortices Contain Distinguishable Spatial Patterns of Activity for Each Sense », Nature Communications, 2013; 4:1979

Giandomenico Iannetti et Frédérique de Vignemont, « How many peripersonal spaces? », Neuropsychologia, 2015; 70:327-34

Conference organized by A. Pinotti (Università Statale di Milano / Paris IAS 2017-2018), with the support of the IIC and the FMSH
13 Dec 2018 10:00 -
14 Dec 2018 18:00,
Paris :
Adventures of Identity: From the Double to the Avatar
Lecture by G. Iannetti, 2017-2018 Paris IAS fellow
25 May 2018 17:00 -
25 May 2018 18:00,
Paris :
Perception physique de la douleur
Conference organized by P. Haggard (2016-2017 Paris IAS fellow), D. Garber and G. Iannetti (2017-2018 Paris IAS fellows)
17 May 2018 09:30 -
18 May 2018 17:00,
Paris :
Emergence of Mind
Lecture by G. Iannetti (2016-2017 & 2017-2018 Paris IAS fellow) within the framework of the 20th Brain Awareness Week
12 Mar 2018 18:00 -
12 Mar 2018 19:30,
Paris :
Functional imaging of the human brain: myths and painful truths
Giandomenico Iannetti presents his research project within the framework of the weekly internal seminar
12 Dec 2017 11:00 -
12 Dec 2017 13:00,
Paris :
Functional imaging of the human brain: myths and painful truths

Conference organized by A. Pinotti (Università Statale di Milano / Paris IAS 2017-2018), with the support of the IIC and the FMSH
Conférence de Giandomenico Iannetti (résident 2016-2017 et 2017-2018 de l'IEA de Paris) dans le cadre de la 20e édition de la Semaine du Cerveau
Research project: "Learning from pain: towards a taxonomy of defensive behaviours"
Contemporary period (1789-…)
World or no region