Overview | Research directions | Members | Publications | Ongoing collaborations | Web


At the Per2Con Group we are interested in how the human brain learns and organizes abstract representations of concepts, and in the relation between basic sensorimotor skills and high-level cognition. We try to understand which aspects of perception and action act as fundamental building blocks for the development and acquisition of concepts. On the other side we study how language and symbolic acquisitions in turn shape perception.

We mainly study human adults at the Experimental Psychology Labs and the NeuroImaging Labs @CIMeC, combining psychophysics with neuroimaging (fMRI, M-EEG).

We also study children with different cognitive/perceptual skills (e.g. comparing dyscalculics and/or dyslexics and typically developing) and infants from the first hours of life at the BabyLab and Neonatal Neuroimaging Unit @CIMeC, using experimental psychology methods as well as neuroimaging (EEG).

Finally, se sometimes have the privilege to perform field work investigating the effects of culture on cognitive/perceptual skills, studying adults and children from amazonian and african indigenous traditional oral cultures.

Our research spans over two main areas: language and maths.

Research directions

  • Maths - Humans share with other animals the ability to extract and mentally represent discrete (number) and continuous (area, density) quantities from their physical environment. We study those skills, their neuronal correlates, their development, and their role in grounding higher level cognitive skills, such as formal symbolic maths. We also study dyscalculia with the aim of understanding whether and how impaired perceptual quantity-related skills may hinder the ability to properly acquire knowledge and skills in symbolic number processing.
  • Language – We study how concepts are acquired and organized in memory. We use imaging and behavioral methods to test the hypothesis that word meaning is an emergent property of the simultaneous re-activation of both single and multiple conjoint features of the objects referred to by the words. The single sensory features that define the meaning of concrete words (e.g. individual dimensions of the semantic space - the prototypical size, shape, sound of objects) are represented independently sensory-specific cortical regions. During word reading these representations emerge very early in time (by 200 ms) and in parallel. A second type of representation that characterize semantic is one that integrates different sensory-motor features in a single conjunctive multidimensional space. Those representations emerge in the temporal, frontal, and parietal lobe, and are encoded through a variety of neuronal codes that also support spatial navigation: a grid-like, distance-dependent, and direction-specific codes.



For a complete list: Manuela Piazza personal page

Ongoing collaborations 

  • Marco Zorzi (University of Padova, IT)
  • Stanislas Dehaene (College de France, Neurospin, FR)
  • Evelyn Eger (NeuroSpin, FR)
  • Veronique Izard (LPP, CNRS, FR)
  • Daniel Hyde (University of Illinois, USA)


Research group webpage