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Pioneering focused Ultrasounds as a new non-invasive deep brain stimulation for a causal investigation of empathy related brain processes in moral learning and decision making

Total Cost €


EC-Contrib. €






 HelpUS project word cloud

Explore the words cloud of the HelpUS project. It provides you a very rough idea of what is the project "HelpUS" about.

explore    regions    limbic    brain    untreatable    models    anterior    stead    stimulation    fmri    altering    facial    friend    alter    transforming    relationship    empathy    hypothesis    compare    benefits    frustratingly    generally    mechanistic    suggesting    causal    powerless    ultrasounds    tools    computational    outcomes    pain    captures    had    affective    brake    push    thereby    optimize    inform    kicking    transform    neuroscience    successful    representation    showing    incorporate    context    structures    depends    neural    pave    leaning    prosociality    us    deep    negative    insula    balance    themselves    behavior    vicarious    unleash    noninvasively    decision    provides    learning    actions    social    antisocial    brand    feel    cingulate    emotions    nature    cooperate    kicked    self    transformed    interventions    disorders    modulate    expression    barrier    selectively    associating    cognition    humans    stop    cooperation    motivating    testable    individuals    harm    deeper    hypotheses    painful    equation    kick    remained    select    currency   

Project "HelpUS" data sheet

The following table provides information about the project.


Organization address
postcode: 1011 JV

contact info
title: n.a.
name: n.a.
surname: n.a.
function: n.a.
email: n.a.
telephone: n.a.
fax: n.a.

 Coordinator Country Netherlands [NL]
 Total cost 1˙500˙000 €
 EC max contribution 1˙500˙000 € (100%)
 Programme 1. H2020-EU.1.1. (EXCELLENT SCIENCE - European Research Council (ERC))
 Code Call ERC-2017-STG
 Funding Scheme ERC-STG
 Starting year 2018
 Duration (year-month-day) from 2018-07-01   to  2023-06-30


Take a look of project's partnership.

# participants  country  role  EC contrib. [€] 


 Project objective

The success of humans depends on their ability to cooperate. Cooperation requires learning to avoid actions that harm others and select those that balance benefits for self and others. Reinforcement leaning captures how individuals learn to optimize benefits for themselves, by associating actions and outcomes for the self. The social context requires to incorporate outcomes for others into that equation by transforming them into the currency used to value our own outcomes. Research on empathy, by suggesting that we transform the emotions of others into neural representation of how we would feel in their stead, provides testable mechanistic hypotheses of how we do that. The painful facial expression of our friend after we kick him would be transformed into the pain we would feel when kicked, associating kicking with negative value, thereby motivating us to stop kicking. Testing this hypothesis would require altering brain activity in the anterior insula and cingulate involved in this process, and showing that these changes alter decision making. Because current tools in humans cannot selectively modulate activity in these deeper regions we however remain frustratingly powerless to do so. Here we will develop a brand new method using ultrasounds to modulate brain activity at any depth to brake down this barrier. Using fmri, we will measure vicarious activity and compare it with computational models. This will push our understanding of our social nature to a new computational level, and pave the way to a more causal understanding of prosociality that can inform successful interventions for so far untreatable antisocial disorders. More generally deep brain stimulation via US, and the understanding of how US modulate brain activity, will unleash affective neuroscience to noninvasively explore what had remained beyond our reach: the causal relationship between deeper (limbic) structures and behavior and cognition.

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The information about "HELPUS" are provided by the European Opendata Portal: CORDIS opendata.

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