Dr Marta Ponari completed a BSc in Psychology in 2004 before specialising in Neuropsychology and Neuroscience with a two-year MSc from the University of Campania (Caserta, Italy). After training as a clinical neuropsychologist and working as a research assistant in experimental psychology, she started a PhD supported by a studentship from the Italian Ministry of Research (MURST). In 2009, she spent ten months as a visiting researcher in the Social Perception lab at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (London). She completed her PhD in January 2011, and a few months later she moved back to London to work as a post-doctoral research associate at the Department of Experimental Psychology, University College London.

Marta joined the University of Kent in late 2014, as a lecturer in cognitive psychology at the School of Psychology. 

Research interests

Dr Marta Ponari's research to date has focused on embodied cognition, with a particular interest in the embodiment of emotions. 

Her research mainly focuses on two strands: 

Strand 1 - How do we recognise facial expressions?
When processing emotional stimuli, people activate sensory and motor areas of the brain that overlap with those that are active during experience of the same emotions ('sensory-motor simulation'). For example, we know that areas of the brain that are active when people express an emotion are also active when they perceive the same emotion expressed by someone else. This is also typically reflected in facial mimicry: people observing an emotional facial expression activate the same muscles as if they were producing the same expression themselves.

Marta is interested in whether sensory-motor simulation and facial mimicry have a causal / facilitatory role in emotion processing and recognition. 

Strand 2 - How do we process emotional words?

Embodiment can also occur when we process emotional language (words and sentences with an emotional connotation). Marta is interested in investigating the role of sensory-motor simulation in processing  emotional language. 

Marta's research within both strands uses a combination of behavioural, eye tracking, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), psychophysiological methods (electromyography, EEG, heart rate, skin conductance) and populations (healthy adults, neurological patients, typically developing children as well as children with Specific Language Impairment and Autism).

More information about the ongoing projects can be found at www.ememlab.co.uk


Convenor and Lecturer

SP305 Introduction to Psychology II
SP605 Cognitive Psychology


SP604 Biological Psychology
SP611 The Neuroscience of Cognitive Disorders
SP616 Language and Communication
SP827 Current Issues in Cognitive Psychology and Neuropsychology


Dr Marta Ponari welcomes applications from prospective PhD students who would like to join the lab. 

Deadlines for University of Kent scholarships are typically in late January. To apply for a PhD, it's best to email Marta in October/November with a CV and an idea of what you want to focus your project on.

Topics can be flexible within the research interests of the lab. Applications after December can only be considered for self-funded PhD candidates.

Current research students

  • Giulia Mangiaracina (School of Psychology Studentship): The role of interoception and proprioception during the perception of others' emotional face expressions
  • Marcus Sorensen: TBA


Grants and Awards


Professional memberships

  • Psychonomic Society
  • European Society for Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (ESCAN)
  • Società Italiana di Neuropsicologia (SINP)

  • Reviewing

    Marta is a reviewer for more than 15 cognitive psychology and neuroscience journals.
    Publons verified reviewer profile: https://publons.com/author/197141/marta-ponari

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