Dr Jane Aspell

Senior Lecturer & Director of Postgraduate Research

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

School:Psychology and Sport Science

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Brain & Cognition

Research Supervision:Yes

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

jane.aspell@anglia.ac.uk

Find out more about Jane’s research at the Self & Body Lab

View Jane's profile on ResearchGate

Background

Jane has been a Senior Lecturer at ARU since 2011. Before joining us, 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 neurotypical participants, participants with autism, 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?

Jane is the Co-Lead of our Body and Self Research Area and a member of our Autism Research Area.

Areas of research supervision

Jane welcomes applications from students who wish to pursue PhD projects that use behavioural and/or psychophysiological (including EEG) methods to investigate bodily self-consciousness. For more information see her research interests and publications.

Jane is currently the first supervisor of Piers Grey and Utkarsh Gupta, and second supervisor of Jennifer Todd. She was previously the first supervisor of Cari-Lene Mul, who was awarded her PhD in 2020.

Find out more about our Psychology PhD.

Teaching

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

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

  • Academic Editor, PLoS One
  • Guest Editor, Special Research Topic in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
  • Review Editor, Frontiers in Psychology -Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
  • Fellow, the Higher Education Academy (HEA)
  • Member of the Conference Committee for the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (2018-2021)
  • Ad hoc manuscript reviewer for journals including Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Scientific Reports, Journal of Neuroscience, Cognition, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, European Journal of Neuroscience, Psychological Bulletin, Neuroscience Letters, Journal of Pain, Neuropsychologia, Cortex, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Consciousness & Cognition, Neuroimage and Cerebral Cortex
  • Reviewer of book manuscripts and proposals for Palgrave Macmillan, Pearson and Oxford University Press
  • Reviewer of grant applications for the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

Jane Aspell (PI), Flavia Cardini, Mike Lee and Paola Finoia (Co-Is) were awarded a Pain Challenge Research Award from Versus Arthritis (value £190,345) in 2020

  • Jane Aspell and Flavia Cardini were awarded a SEED Grant from Perdana University-Centre for Psychological Medicine of £4,194 in 2018
  • Jane Aspell and Farah Hina were awarded a Wellcome Trust Biomedical Vacation Scholarship of £2,000 in 2017
  • Jane Aspell and Flavia Cardini were awarded €43,600 by the Bial Foundation in 2014
  • Jane Aspell and Richard Piech were awarded a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant of £9,886 in 2014
  • Jane Aspell and David Kaneria were awarded a Wellcome Trust Biomedical Vacation Scholarship of £2,000 in 2012

Selected recent publications

Todd, J., Barron, D., Aspell, J.E., Kheng Lin Toh, E., Syahirah Zahari, H., Azzatunnisak Mohd Khatib, N. & Swami, V. (2020) Translation and Validation of a Bahasa Malaysia (Malay) Version of the Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness (MAIA) PlosOne 15(4), e0231048

Todd, J., Hina, F. & Aspell, J.E. (2020) Reduction of auditory input improves performance on the heartbeat tracking task, but does not necessarily enhance interoception. Experimental Brain Research (in press)

Todd, J., Aspell, J.E., Barron, D. & Swami, V., 2019. An Exploration of the Associations between Facets of Interoceptive Awareness and Body Image in Adolescents. Body Image, 31, pp.171-180.

Cardini, F., Fatemi-Ghomi, N., Gajewska-Knapik, K., Gooch, V. & Aspell, J.E., 2019. Enlarged representation of the peripersonal space in pregnancy. Scientific Reports, 9(8606).

Hina, F. & Aspell, J.E., 2019. Altered interoceptive processing in smokers. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 142, pp.10-16.

Swami, V., Todd, J., Aspell, J.E., Azzatunnisak Mohd Khatib, N., Kheng Lin Toh, E., Syahirah Zahari, H., & Barron, D., 2019. Translation and Validation of a Bahasa Malaysia (Malay) Version of the Functionality Appreciation Scale. Body Image, 30, pp.114-120.

Mul, C., Cardini, F., Stagg, S.D., Sadeghi-Esfahlani, S., Kiourtsoglou, D., Cardellicchio, P. & Aspell, J.E, 2019. Altered bodily self-consciousness and peripersonal space in autism. Autism, 23(8).

Todd, J., Aspell, J. E., Barron, D. & Swami, V., 2019. Multiple dimensions of interoceptive awareness are associated with facets of body image in British adults. Body Image, 29, pp.6-16.

Heydrich, L.*, Aspell, J.E.*, Marillier, G., Lavanchy, T., Herbelin, B. & Blanke, O., 2018. Cardio-visual full body illusion alters bodily self-consciousness and tactile processing in somatosensory cortex. Scientific Reports, 8(9230), (*contributed equally).

Mul, C., Stagg, S.D., Herbelin, B. & Aspell, J.E., 2018. The feeling of me feeling for you: Interoception, alexithymia and empathy in autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Apr 11, pp.1-15.

Piech, R.M., Strelchuk, D., Knights, J., Hjälmheden, J.V., Olofsson, J.K. & Aspell, J.E., 2017. People with higher interoceptive sensitivity are more altruistic, but improving interoception does not increase altruism. Scientific Reports, 7 (15652).

Cowie, D., McKenna, A., Bremner, A.J. & Aspell, J.E., 2017. The development of bodily self-consciousness: changing responses to the full body illusion in childhood. Developmental Science , 00:e12557.

Pamment, J. & Aspell, J.E., 2016. Putting pain out of mind with an ‘out of body’ illusion. European Journal of Pain, 21(2), pp.334-342.

Aspell, J.E.*, Heydrich, L.*, Marillier, G., 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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Aspell, J.E., Lenggenhager, B., & Blanke, O., 2009. Keeping in touch with one’s self: multisensory mechanisms of self-consciousness. PLoS one, 4(8), e6488.

Aspell, J.E., Wattam-Bell, J. and Braddick, O., 2006. Interaction of spatial and temporal integration in global form processing. Vision research, 46(18), pp.2834-2841.

Aspell, J.E., Tanskanen, T. and Hurlbert, A.C., 2005. Neuromagnetic correlates of visual motion coherence. European Journal of Neuroscience, 22(11), pp.2937-2945.

Recent presentations and conferences

Cambridge Science Festival Talk, 18 March 2020. My Self and My Brain See details

Cambridge Science Festival Talk, 20 March 2019. The Neuroscience of Out-of-Body Experiences. See details.

Cambridge Science Festival Talk, 21st March, 2018. Sensing the Inner Self. See details.

Cambridge Science Festival Talk, 2017. Losing and Finding the Self in the Brain. Watch video via the image below:


Cambridge Science Festival Talk, 2016. The Science of Out of Body Experiences. Watch Jane's 2016 Science Festival talk via the image below:

Jane Aspell delivering a lecture

Cambridge Science Festival, 2015. The Light of Consciousness.

Rethinking the Senses (AHRC Science in Culture) Seminar. Invited speaker in 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

The Psychologist magazine (2019) “Shattering the Self” Read the article

The Times (2019) ‘Baby brain’ raises vigilance in pregnant women. Read the article

The Independent (2019) Pregnant women’s ‘safety bubble’ expands during third trimester to ‘keep danger at arm’s length.’ Read the article

Newsweek (2019) People with autism have a 'different sense of self', study finds. Read the article

New Scientist (2019) People with autism are less likely to fall for an out-of-body illusion. Read the article

The Times (Nov, 2017) Heartfelt generosity.

Daily Mail (Nov, 2017) Generous people really do 'give from the heart': People who can better detect their own heartbeats are more charitable because they are sensitive to their own feelings. Read the article

Daily Mail (2017). Children as young as six have out of body experiences. Read the article

The Times (2016). Mind games better than pills for pain relief. Read the article

The Sun (2016). Goggle Blockers.  

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). Read the transcript.