Ralph Adolphs studies the neural and psychological basis for human social behavior. His work has focused on examining how people recognize, perceive, and process emotions and other social cues in facial expressions. Some of the questions his lab is trying to answer are: How do people make social and moral judgments? How do they make emotionally charged decisions? Why do people with autism have difficulties with social behavior? The goal is to better understand how both healthy and atypical brains work.
Adolphs uses various techniques in his lab, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, eye tracking, and recording electrical activity in the brain. He studies neurological patients with focal brain damage, those with neuropsychiatric diseases such as autism and Williams syndrome, and neurosurgical patients who have electrodes in their brains. From these experiments, he's investigating how data from individual brain cells can be connected to neuroimaging data and, ultimately, to behavior.