Yawei Cheng Distinguished Professor

Social neuroscience laboratory

Yawei Cheng Distinguished Professor



M.D. Ph.D. 
Institute of Neuroscience,National Yang-Ming University
Rehabilitation Department,National Yang-Ming University Hospital(Yilan)


2019 Senior Fulbright Research Grants

2016 Outstanding Research Award from The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Taiwan

2011 Wu Da-You Memorial Award & Young Investigator Project from The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Taiwan

2009 Award of the 20th Ten Outstanding Young Women, Taiwan

2007 The Best Ten Abstracts in the 13th Annual Conference of the Organization of Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) (2007) in Chicago, IL, U.S.A.

2006 Award of Junior Physicians by Rehabilitation Medicine Funds of Prof. I-Nan Lien

2006 Award of Taipei Medical Wang-Fang Neuroscience, Neuroscience Society of Taiwan


Lab Members

Yu-Chun Chen  Wei-Ju Chen  Yu-Chi Lo  Yi-Hsin Lee  Cai-Shuo Wang  Jian-Yu Lo  

Yin-Yan Tseng   Yu-Hsin Chen  Chien-Wen  Lin En-Syuan Huang




Jean Decety (University of Chicago, U.S.A.)

Jennifer Ethier (University of North Carolina, Greensboro, USA)

Chengyi Chen (Taipei Medical University, Taiwan)

Yang-Teng Fan (National Chia Tung University, Taiwan) 

Roger Marcelo Martinez cuevas (Taipei Medical University, Taiwan)


Research Interest

My major areas of interest are cognitive and social neuroscience. In my lab, we use EEG and functional MRI, combined with theoretical frameworks borrowed from cognitive and evolutionary psychology, as well as psychopathology, to determine and probe the neural underpinnings of the social brain. Specifically, my focus is  the neural mechanisms underlying notions such as empathy, morality, and justice, among others.

Empathy is the ability to take the perspective of others or feel affected by their distress. Even though it might be easily defined, in practice, empathy subsumes a variety of neurobiological circuits and partially dissociable social, emotional and cognitive subsystems that interact and operate in a parallel fashion. These systems include top-down processes, such as those engaged during self-regulation, motivation, intention, etc. and that encompass brain regions like the orbitofrontal cortex, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, among others; as well as bottom-up mechanisms, like those active during affective arousal, and which elicit activity in brain regions such as the amygdala and hypothalamus, that summed up modulate the extent of the empathetic experience and the likelihood of prosocial behavior, as each of these networks feed forward towards other stages of processing that enhance flexible and appropriate behavioral responses. Participants from my studies are typically developing infants, children, and adults in all stages of life, as well as individuals with social impairments, such as subjects with schizophrenia, depression, psychopathy, or autism spectrum disorder.

All in all, my lab’s goal is that of elucidating the neural mechanisms underlying the individual differences concerning behavior during social interactions and cognition of social phenomena, as to expand the current scientific knowledge in this important aspect of human experience.


Invited Lectures/Publications

Chen C, Martínez RM, Liao TT, Chen CY, Yang CY, Cheng Y* (2020) An integrative analysis of 5HTT-mediated mechanism of hyperactivity to non-threatening voices. Communications Biology accepted.

Samek A, Cowell JM, Cappelen AW, Cheng Y, Contreras-Ibáñez C, Gomez-Sicard N, Gonzalez-Gaeda ML, Huepe D, Ibáñez A, Lee K, Malcolm-Smith S, Salas N, Selcuk B, Tungodden B, Wong A, Zhou X, Decety J (2020) The development of social comparisons and sharing behavior across 12 countries. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 192:104778.

Chen C, Martínez RM, Chen Y, Cheng Y* (2020) Pointing fingers at others: the neural correlates of actor-observer asymmetry in blame attribution. Neuropsychologia 136:107281.

Chen YC, Chen C, Martínez RM, Etnier J, Cheng Y (2019) Habitual physical activity mediates the acute exercise-induced modulation of anxiety-related amygdala functional connectivity. Scientific Reports 9:19787.

Chen C, Róger Marcelo Martínez, Cheng Y* (2018) The developmental origins of the social brain: empathy, morality, and justice. Frontiers in Psychology 9:2584.

Chen C, Chen YC, Chen KL, Cheng Y* (2018) Atypical anxiety-related amygdala reactivity and functional connectivity in Sant Mat Meditation. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 2018; 12: 298.

Chen C, Chan CW, Cheng Y*(2018) Test–retest reliability of mismatch negativity (MMN) to emotional voices.Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 12:453.

Huppert E, Cowell JC, Cheng Y, Contreras-Ibáñez C, Gomez-Sicard N, Gonzalez-Gaeda LM, Huepe D, Ibanez A, Kang Lee K, Mahasneh R, Malcolm-Smith S, Salas N, Selcuk B, Tungodden B, Wong A, Zhou X, Decety J (2018) The development of children’s preferences for equality and equity across 13 individualistic and collectivist cultures. Developmental Science 12: e12729.

Cheng Y*, Chen C, Decety J (2017) How situational context impacts empathic responses and brain activation patterns. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 2017; 11:165.

Chen C, Hu CH, Cheng Y* (2017) Mismatch negativity (MMN) stands at the crossroads between explicit and implicit emotional processing. Human Brain Mapping 2017; 38(1): 140-150.

Chen C, Liu CC, Weng PY, Cheng Y* (2016) Mismatch negativity to threatening voices associated with positive symptoms in schizophrenia. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2106; 10:362.

Chen C, Hung AY, Fan YT, Tan S, Hong H, Cheng Y* (2016) Linkage between pain sensitivity and empathic response in adolescents with autism spectrum conditions and conduct disorder symptoms. Autism Research 2106; 10(2):267-275.

Chen C, Sung JY, Cheng Y* (2016) Neural dynamics of emotional salience processing in response to voices during the stages of sleep. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 10:117.

Chen C, Decety J, Huang PJ, Chen CY, Cheng Y* (2016) Testosterone administration in females modulates moral judgment and pattern of brain activation and functional connectivity. Human Brain Mapping 10:23249.

Fan YT, Chen C, Cheng Y* (2016) The neural mechanisms of social learning from fleeting experience with pain. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 10:11.

Chen C, Chen CY, Yang CY, Lin CH, Cheng Y* (2015) Testosterone modulates preattentive sensory processing and involuntary attention switches to emotional voices.

Chen C, Lee YH, Cheng Y* (2014) Anterior insular cortex activity to emotional salience of voices in a passive oddball paradigm. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8: 743.

Cheng Y*, Chen CY, Decety J (2014) An EEG/ERP investigation of the development of empathy in early and middle childhood. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience 10: 160-9.

Fan YT, Cheng Y* (2014) Atypical mismatch negativity in response to emotional voices in people with autism spectrum conditions. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102471.

Hung AY, Cheng Y* (2014) Sex differences in preattentive perception of emotional voices and acoustic attributes. NeuroReport 25 (7): 464-9.

Chen YC, Chen CC, Decety J, Cheng Y* (2014) Aging is associated with changes in the neural circuits underlying empathy. Neurobiology of Aging 35 (4): 827-836.

Fan YT, Chen CY, Chen SC, Decety J, Cheng Y* (2014) Empathic arousal and social understanding in individuals with autism: evidence from fMRI and ERP measurements. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 9(8): 1203-13.

Fan YT, Hsu YY, Cheng Y* (2013) Sex matters: n-back modulates emotional mismatch negativity. NeuroReport 24(9): 457-63.

Hung AY, Ahveninen J, Cheng Y* (2013) Atypical mismatch negativity to distressful voices associated with conduct disorder symptoms. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 54(9): 1017-1027.

Chen CY, Yang CY, Cheng Y* (2012) Sensorimotor resonance is an outcome but not a platform to anticipating harm to others. Social Neuroscience 7(6): 578-90.

Cheng Y, Lee SY, Chen HY, Wang PY, Decety J (2012) Voice and emotion processing in the human neonatal brain. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 24(6): 1411-1419.

Cheng Y, Chou KH, Fan YT, Lin CP (2011) ANS: Aberrant neurodevelopment of the social cognition network in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. PLoS ONE 6(4): e18905.

Cheng Y*, Hung AY*, Decety J (2012) Dissociation between affective sharing and emotional understanding in juvenile psychopaths. Development and Psychopathology 24:623-636.

Chou KH, Cheng Y, Chen IY, Lin CP, Chu WC (2011) Sex-linked white matter microstructure of the social and analytic brain. NeuroImage 54 (1): 725-733.

Fan YT, Decety J, Yang CY, Liu JL, Cheng Y* (2010) Unbroken mirror neurons in autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 51(9): 981-988.

Cheng Y*, Chen C, Lin CP, Chou KH, Decety J (2010) Love hurts: an fMRI study. NeuroImage 51(2): 923-929.

Decety J, Yang CY, Cheng Y* (2010) Physicians down-regulate their pain empathy response: an event-related brain potential study. NeuroImage 50(4): 1676-1682.

Cheng Y, Chou KH, Chen IY, Fan YT, Decety J, Lin CP (2010) Atypical development of white matter microstructure in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. NeuroImage 50(3): 873-882.

Yang CY, Decety J, Lee SY, Chen CY, Cheng Y* (2009) Gender differences in the mu rhythm during empathy for pain: an electrophysiologic study. Brain Research 1251: 176-184.

Cheng Y, Chou KH, Decety J, Chen IY, Hung D, Tzeng OJL, Lin CP (2009) Sex differences in the neuroanatomy of human mirror-neuron system: a voxel-based morphometric investigation. Neuroscience 158(2): 713-720.

Cheng Y, Lee PL, Yang CY, Lin CP, Hung D, Decety J (2008) Gender differences in the mu rhythm of the human mirror-neuron system. PLoS ONE 3(5): e2113.

Cheng Y, Yang CY, Lin CP, Lee PL, Decety J (2008) The perception of pain in others suppresses somatosensory oscillations: a magnetoencephalography study. NeuroImage 40(4): 1833-1840.

Cheng Y, Decety J, Lin CP, Hsieh JC, Hung D, Tzeng OJL (2007) Sex differences in spinal excitability during observation of bipedal locomotion. NeuroReport 18,887-890.

Cheng Y, Lin CP, Liu HL, Hsu YY, Lim KE, Hung D, Decety J (2007) Expertise modulates the perception of pain in others. Current Biology 17(9): 1708-1713.

Cheng Y*, Decety J, Lin CP, Hsieh JC, Hung D, Tzeng OJL (2007) Sex differences in spinal excitability during observation of bipedal locomotion. NeuroReport 18(8): 887-890.

Cheng Y, Melzoff A, Decety J* (2007) Motivation modulates the activity of the human mirror-neuron system. Cerebral Cortex 17(8): 1979-1986.

Cheng Y, Tzeng OJL, Decety J, Imada T, Hsieh JC (2006) Gender differences in the human mirror system: a magnetoencephalography study. NeuroReport 17(11): 1115-1119.

Cheng Y*, Tzeng OJL, Hung D, Decety J, Hsieh JC (2005) Modulation of spinal excitability during observation of bipedal locomotion. NeuroReport 16(15): 1711-1714.