nwo-marie curie-eu


Position: Post-doctoral Researcher
Supervisor: Christian Keysers
E-mail: v.gazzola@rug.nl.

Valeria Gazzola

Brief CV:I studied Biology in Parma – Itlay – and started my scientific carrer in Rizzolatti's lab with an experimental master thesis entitled: "The role of the somatosensory cortices during the observation of the tactile stimulation of others" which contributed to a publication in Neuron. I then moved to Groningen – The Netherlands – where I completed my PhD (cum laude) with a thesis entitled "Action in the brain: Shared neural circuits for action observation and execution" (Dutch summary  English summary  Italian summary  Complete Thesis) under the supervision of Christian Keysers at the BCN-NeuroImaging Center.

Current project:
Humans are social animals. While it is of cardinal importance for us to understanding what other people do and feel, we still lack an understanding of how our brain achieves this function. Research on social perception has focused so far on cognitive processes. I investigate an alternative account: ‘shared circuits’. Shared circuits are brain areas involved when we ourselves do an action, feel an emotion or sense a sensation AND when we observe or listen to someone else perform the same actions, express the same emotions and experience the same sensations. Such shared circuits reflect an automatic transformation of what other people do and feel into the neural representation of our own actions, emotions and sensations. Using fMRI we investigate the role of brain regions involved in the execution of actions during the perception of the actions of others; the role of the somatosensory cortices during the perception of other people being touched; and the role of emotional structures (e.g. amygdala and insula) during the observation of the emotional stimuli. The emphasis of the work is to investigate the idea that a single mechanism – shared circuits – could give valuable insights into all three domains.