School of Psychology

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Marta Ponari

Dr Marta Ponari

Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology
Deputy School Director of Education (Associate Lecturers Co-ordinator and Training)


Research interests

Broadly, my research interest is in Social Cognition. More specifically, I am interested in the embodiment of emotions. 

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. 

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

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

I study the role of sensory-motor simulation and mimicry in facial expression recognition and in processing of emotional language using a combination of behavioural, eye tracking, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), psychophysiological studies (electromyography, heart rate, skin conductance). I explore these processes in healthy volunteers, neurological patients, typically developing children as well as children with Specific Language Impairment and Autism.

More info about the ongoing projects can be found at

Key publications


  • Vinson, D., Ponari, M., Vigliocco, G. (2013). How does emotional content affect lexical processing? Cognition and Emotion [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2013.851068
  • Ponari, M., Conson, M., D'Amico, N. P., Grossi, D., Trojano, L. (2012). Mapping Correspondence Between Facial Mimicry and Emotion Recognition in Healthy Subjects. Emotion, 12(6):1398-403. doi:10.1037/a0028588
  • Pistoia, F., Conson, M., Trojano, L., Grossi, D., Ponari, M., Colonnese, C., Pistoia, M. L., Carducci, F., Sara, M. (2010). Impaired Conscious Recognition of Negative Facial Expressions in Patients with Locked-in Syndrome. Journal of Neuroscience,  30(23), 7838-7844. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6300-09.2010




School of Psychology - Keynes College, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NP

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Last Updated: 26/11/2018