Dr Jane Aspell

Senior Lecturer

Jane is a cognitive neuroscientist and her research focuses on the multisensory bodily basis for self-consciousness.

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jane.aspell@anglia.ac.uk

Background

Jane has been a Senior Lecturer at ARU since 2011. Before joining our Department, Jane did postdoctoral research at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, at Goldsmiths College in London and at the University of Oxford. She did her PhD at the University of Newcastle under Professor Anya Hurlbert and for her undergraduate studies, she read Biological Sciences at Somerville College, University of Oxford.

Research interests

Jane’s ongoing research goal is to investigate how the multisensory representation of the body provides the neurobiological basis for the self.

To do this she runs behavioural, psychophysical and neurophysiological (EEG) experiments in which multisensory conflicts are generated in order to distort bodily self perception in healthy participants and patients.

Her other interests include how exteroceptive (visual, tactile and proprioceptive) and interoceptive (eg cardiac) signals are combined by the brain to give rise to bodily self-consciousness. Her research aims to answer questions such as: How is the self related to the body? Which brain mechanisms are crucial for self-consciousness? How does the conscious experience of being a self with and within a body emerge from the integration of signals from multiple sensory modalities? And how do these more basic processes provide the foundation for 'higher', more conceptual levels of self?

Areas of research supervision

Jane supervises students doing PhD projects that use behavioural and psychophysiological (including EEG) methods to investigate bodily self-consciousness. For more information see her research interests and publications below.

Jane is currently the first supervisor of Cari-Lene Mul’s PhD project investigating interoception in autism.

Teaching

Modules

Biopsychology, Neuropsychology, Clinical Psychology & Learning, Memory and Perception (undergraduate level, module leader); Diagnosis and Treatment in Clinical Child Psychology & Current Theoretical Issues in Cognitive Neuroscience (postgraduate level, module leader).

Qualifications

  • MA(Oxon) Biological Sciences, University of Oxford, 1998
  • PhD in Neuroscience, University of Newcastle, 2003
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching (Higher Education), Anglia Ruskin University, 2013

Memberships, editorial boards

Memberships

  • Fellow, the Higher Education Academy (HEA)
  • Member, Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC)

Reviewer

  • Ad hoc manuscript reviewer for journals including the Journal of Neuroscience, European Journal of Neuroscience, Psychological Bulletin, Neuroscience Letters, PlosOne, Neuropsychologia, Cortex, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience and Cerebral Cortex
  • Reviewer of book manuscripts and proposals for Palgrave Macmillan and Oxford University Press
  • Reviewer of grant applications for the Wellcome Trust, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Netherlands Space Office.

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

  • Jane Aspell and Flavia Cardini were awarded €43,600 by the Bial Foundation in 2014

Selected recent publications

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Aspell, J.E.*, Heydrich, L.*, Marillier, G., Tom Lavanchy, T., Herbelin, B. and Blanke, O., 2013. Turning body and self inside out: visualized heartbeats alter bodily self-consciousness and tactile perception. Psychological Science, 24(12), pp.2445-2453 (*contributed equally). Read the full text.

Heydrich, L., Dodds, T., Aspell, J.E., Herbelin, B., Buelthoff, H., Mohler, B. and Blanke, O., 2013. Visual capture and the experience of having two bodies-Evidence from two different virtual reality techniques. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, p.946. Read the full text.

Rognini, G., Sengül, A., Aspell, J.E., Salomon, R., Bleuler, H. and Blanke, O., 2013. Visuo-tactile integration and body ownership during self-generated action. European Journal of Neuroscience, 37(7), pp.1120-1129. Read the full text.

Sengül, A., Rognini, G., van Elk, M., Aspell, J. E., Bleuler, H. and Blanke, O., 2013. Force feedback facilitates multisensory integration during robotic tool use. Experimental Brain Research, 227(4), pp.497-507. Read the full text.

Sengül, A., van Elk, M., Rognini, G., Aspell, J.E., Bleuler, H. and Blanke, O., 2012. Extending the Body to Virtual Tools Using a Robotic Surgical Interface: Evidence from the Crossmodal Congruency Task. PLoS ONE, 7(12), e4947. Read the full text.

Salmon, R., van Elk, M., Aspell, J.E. and Blanke, O., 2012. I feel who I see: visual body identity affects visual-tactile integration in peripersonal space. Consciousness and Cognition, 21, pp.1355-1364.

Aspell, J.E., Palluel, E. and Blanke, O., 2012. Early and late activity in somatosensory cortex reflects changes in bodily self-consciousness: An evoked potential study. Neuroscience, 216, pp.110-122. 

Palluel, E., Aspell, J.E., Lavanchy, T. and Blanke, O., 2012. Experimental changes in bodily self-consciousness are tuned to the frequency sensitivity of proprioceptive fibres. Neuroreport, 23, pp.354-359. Read the full text.

Palluel, E., Aspell, J.E. and Blanke, O., 2011. Leg muscle vibration modulates bodily self-consciousness: integration of proprioceptive, visual, and tactile signals. Journal of Neurophysiology, 105(5), pp.2239-47. Read the full text.

Aspell, J.E., Lenggenhager, B. and Blanke, O., 2011. Multisensory perception and bodily self-consciousness: from out-of body to inside-body experience. In: Murray, M.M. and Wallace, M.T. (Eds.). The Neural Bases of Multisensory Processes, Frontiers in Neuroscience. CRC Press. Read the full text.

Aspell, J.E., Lavanchy, T., Lenggenhager, B. and Blanke, O., 2010. Seeing the body modulates audiotactile integration. European Journal of Neuroscience, 31(10), pp.1868-73. Read the full text.

Aspell, J.E., Wattam-Bell, Atkinson, J. and Braddick, O., 2010. Differential human brain activation by vertical and horizontal global visual textures. Experimental Brain Research, 202(3), pp.669-679. Read the full text.

Aspell, J.E. and Blanke, O., 2009. Understanding the out-of-body experience from a neuroscientific perspective. In: Murray, C.D. (Ed.). Psychological Scientific Perspectives on Out of Body and Near Death Experiences, Psychology Research Progress, pp.73-88. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Blanke, O. and Aspell, J.E., 2009. Brain technologies raise unprecedented ethical challenges. Nature, 458(7239), p.703. Comment on: Nature, 457(7233), pp.1080-1. Read the full text.

Recent presentations and conferences

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Public talk at Cambridge Science Festival, 19 March 2015. The Light of Consciousness.

Rethinking the Senses (AHRC Science in Culture). Invited speaker on 19 February, 2015. The multisensory bodily self. See details of the event.

Cambridge Festival of Ideas, 2014. Will I still be me tomorrow? The Problem of Personal Identity.

Cambridge Science Festival, 2014. The Neuroscience of Self: How the Brain Creates 'Me'.

Cambridge Festival of Ideas, 2013. Boundaries between Self & World. Watch the video.

Part of panel discussion on the topic 'Consciousness: Beyond the Individual?', London, 2013.

Cambridge Festival of Ideas, 2012. Why I Dreamed Me: How Brain Science Explains our Peculiar Experience of the Self in Dreams.

Media experience

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BBC Radio 5 (2014). 5Live Science show on The science of the supernatural. Listen to the podcast.

Premier Christian Radio (2014). On the Unbelievable show discussing near-death experiences.

Wall Street Journal (2013). Researchers Study Self-Knowledge (Literally). Read the article.

The Telegraph (2013). Scientists trigger 'out-of-body' experience using heartbeats. Read the article.

Daily Mail (2013). Lights that flash in time with your heart can trigger 'out-of-body' experiences. Read the article.

New Scientist (2013). Heartbeat used to generate out-of-body experience. Read the article.

New Scientist (2009). Out-of-body experiences help bring avatars to life. Read the article.

Interviewed for ABC TV, Australia, on science programme Catalyst (topic: out of body experiences). Watch the video.