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Department of Psychology


Dr Cristiana Cavina Pratesi

Personal web page

Lecturer in the Department of Psychology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43258
Room number: L12
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43258

(email at


I was born in Faenza (RA- Italy) on February 1971 and I grew up in Marradi, a small village one hundred kilometers north-east of Firenze (where my family still lives – Gamberaldi). I have a degree in Psychology from the University of Padova (1998) and a PhD in Psychological and Psychiatry Sciences (2003) from the University of Verona. I did a two year post-doctoral period at the University of Western Ontario in Canada and I’m currently working as a research associate at Durham University in the UK.

Current Projects

1. Mapping visual features computation along the dorsal stream: grasping. reaching and pointing. On a general basis our experiments measure brain activation using functional MRI while subjects engage in simple visuomotor tasks. Subjects are asked to perform real actions such as reaching, grasping, pointing or avoiding three-dimensional objects.
i. Dissociating the neural correlates of the transport and grip components of reach-to-grasp actions:
• Evidence from event-related fMRI
• Evidences from brain lesioned patients
ii. What exactly is computed in parietal grasping and reaching areas?
iii. Neural correlates of obstacle avoidance;

2. Mapping visual features computation along the ventral stream  face and object perception
iv. Computation of objects visual features: shape & texture
v. Face awareness and change blindness

3. Interaction between dorsal and ventral streams
vi. Comparing real and pantomime grasping in magicians!

Research Interests

I study how the brain uses visual information to perceive, recognize and act upon objects.
How do we recognize our cup of coffee from others and how do we accommodate our hand-finger posture to reach and grasp it correctly?

Questions I’m trying to answer:
Does our brain build a single representation of the cup or does it extract the shape, size and location of the cup accordingly to our moment-to-moment goals (perceiving, grasping or pointing)? If different representations do exist, which are the differences between them?

I recently published a paper showing that different areas of the brain come to play when the size of real 3D object has to be extracted for action as compared to perception. I found that while area AIP (in the anterior portion of the Intraparietal sulcus) computes object size for the purpose of action only (i.e. grasping), LOC (in the Lateral portion of the Occipital Cortex) computes object size only for perception only (i.e. button press discrimination task).
What does it mean? It means that the brain does not create one single representation of the world, but it extracts object features accordingly to the specific aim of the moment. For example, we can distinguish between an orange and a small tangerine in a bowl of fruit. We can also grasp the orange and our hand would open wider on approach than when grasping the tangerine. My data show that to distinguish the orange from the tangerine we use LOC but when we open our hand widely to grasp the orange as compared to the tangerine, we use AIP.
These data provide the first unequivocal evidence that visual computation of object to perform real goal-directed actions and to perceive take separate neural pathways in neurologically intact human brains. So far the neuro-functional dissociation between a dorsal action stream and a ventral perception stream in the human cerebral cortex was based largely on neuropsychological case studies

Techniques I use

I use behavioral and kinematics measures to asses specific pattern of visuomotor transformations in healthy subjects and then I use functional imaging and neuropsychological testing to check how they are mapped onto the brain.

I collect kinematic data using two different motion analysis systems: Optotrack 3020 and Minibird 500.

I collect imaging data in York (YNiC - UK) and in London, Ontario (CA Robarts Imaging Center) at the University of Western Ontario.

International Collaboration

  • Professor Carlo Alberto Marzi (Verona University, IT)
  • Professor Jody Culham (University of London Ontario, CA)

Research Groups

Research Interests

  • I use behavioural (RT, Accuracy and kinematics), Neuropsychological (patients with selective lesion), and Imaging (fMRI) techniques
  • Visual Perception (shape texture and colour of objects)
  • Visuomotor transformation for action: grasping and reaching


Journal papers: academic

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Vision / eye movement: brain, vision, grasping, functional MRI, lesion, hand