Alessandra Cecilia Rampinini

Alessandra Cecilia Rampinini photo

Education & Interests

I am a cognitive linguist with a Master's Degree in Linguistics (2012) and a Ph.D. in Psychobiology and Psychophysiology (2016), obtained at the University of Pisa, where I also worked as a research fellow in Cognitive neuroscience briefly after the conclusion of my graduate studies (2015-2016). My interests revolve around topics regarding the integration and representation of language skills in the brain, from basic (motor, acoustic information processing related to speech production and perception) to advanced competence (lexical-semantic processing for world-knowledge retrieval and categorization, and their relationship with the senses).I have working experience with the creation and management of behavioral paradigms aimed at investigating speech and language: particularly, I have had the chance to collect and analyze data from dozens of participants in behavioral experiments, usually to construct models that would contrast in-vivo brain data analysis. My experiment programming skills comprise the use of software such as E-Prime, Presentation, Matlab and PsychoPy; moreover, I make widespread use of IBM-SPSS, Microsoft Excel, some Matlab and some R for statistical behavioral data analysis.

My main area of expertise covers the field of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI): I have participated in fMRI data collection, learning the physical workings, safety regulations and practical management of the MR apparatus in order to supervise data acquisition, care for participants' physical and emotional wellbeing while inside the scanner, and respond quickly and effectively to many unforeseen events that may arise during machine on-time; moreover, I have learned how to relate in an efficient and constructive way to the medical, nursing and technical staff in all the MR facilities where I had the opportunity to work.

My fMRI data analysis skills comprise the use of specific software aimed at covering the many steps of signal processing: specifically, I have working experience with AFNI and FSL for univariate data analysis, Paraview and, generally, software for data visualization and volume rendering, and overall some bash shell scripting for managing any necessities that may arise during the analysis process. I have an ongoing interest in multivariate (MVPA) techniques to investigate information organization and representation in a more efficient way, also truer to the functioning and multilayered nature of the brain: therefore, I have acquired the basics of running MVPA in Matlab, an interest that I would like to further pursue and improve.

Using the aforementioned techniques and skills for cognitive behavioral and in-vivo brain data analysis, I have worked with two main neurolinguistic experiments from 2013 to 2016, whose data were presented to national and international neuroscience meetings and are now being described in working papers aimed at peer-reviewed scientific journals: my PhD project investigated the integration of sensory-acoustic and motor-muscular information in the brains of healthy speakers during speech perception, imagery and production, using multivariate techniques to compare a motor-acoustic, physical model to brain data; the second experiment concerned the organization of grammatical class-related information in the brain. Both studies required the exploitation of different, mostly multivariate techniques for brain data analysis: namely, multiple linear regression, multidimensional scaling and representational similarity analysis, principal component analysis, searchlight-based rank accuracy measures, and the like. More recently, I have been involved with a project in collaboration with the University of Trento-Center for Mind-Brain Sciences (CIMeC), where the semantic organization perspective is brought from the spatial (fMRI) to the temporal (magnetoencephalography; MEG) perspective in sighted and blind participants: thus I have been acquiring the tenets of MEG acquisition, with the purpose of transporting the learned fMRI pipelines to this new field of interest.

Student Teaching and Supervision

My additional activities up to now have included the supervision and teaching of students: particularly, I have taught seminars on neurolinguistic topics at the University of Pisa Psychology undergraduate program, Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies Bionics Engineering graduate program (Applied neurosciences class, taught in English), and at the yearly elective activities (ADE) organized for medical students at the University of Pisa who wish to improve their understanding and general knowledge of structural and functional MRI data analysis ("Dalle Molecole al Pensiero" workshop in 2013, 2014, and 2015). Moreover, I have been involved as a side interest in the study of neuroaesthetics and neuroarchitecture, thus speaking at the University of Florence Faculty of Architecture in June, 2015, on the topic of visual perception and cognitive correlates of visual proportion and harmony in the figurative arts. I have a published perspective paper on this topic in Frontiers in Psychology (Papale et al., 2016), dealing with the representation of architectural features pertaining to haptics and vision in sighted and blind people. My other related activities have involved the supervision of undergraduate and master's students attending the laboratory where I carried out my PhD.

Editorial functions

I have experience as a referee for neurolinguistics-related articles submitted to Archives Italiennes de Biologie - A Journal of Neuroscience.

Publications 

  1. Rampinini A., Ricciardi E., Pietrini P., Marotta G., (2016). In favor of the phonemic principle: a review of neurophysiological and neuroimaging explorations into the neural correlates of phonological competence. Studi e Saggi Linguistici. Manuscript submitted for publication.
  2. Rampinini A., Handjaras G., Leo A., Cecchetti L., Ricciardi E., Marotta G., Pietrini P. (2016). A shared neural code for vowel perception, imagery and production*. Manuscript in preparation.
  3. Romagno D., Rampinini A., Handjaras G., Leo A., Caramazza A., Pietrini P., Ricciardi E. (2016). The representation of word classes in the brain: an MVPA study*. Manuscript in preparation.
  4. Papale P., Chiesi L., Rampinini A.C., Pietrini P., Ricciardi E. (2016) When neuroscience ‘touches’ architecture: from hapticity to a supramodal functioning of the human brain. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 866
  5. Leo A., Handjaras G., Rampinini A., Ricciardi E., Pietrini P. (2013) Il ruolo dell'esperienza sensoriale nelle rappresentazioni semantiche. In "Parlare Senza Vedere". Eds. G. Marotta, L. Meini, M. Donati. Pisa: ETS. pp. 35-50
  6. Rampinini A., Cecchetti L., Marani A., Ricciardi E., Pietrini, P. (2016) Memory mistake or wilful deception? An ALE meta-analysis of fMRI studies. Abstract accepted at the 22th Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping, Geneva, Switzerland
  7. Rampinini A., Handjaras G., Leo A., Cecchetti L., Ricciardi E., Marotta G., Pietrini P. (2015). Decoding speech: Multivariate classification of the Italian vocalic system through fMRI. Proceedings of the Italian Society of Psychophysiology. Neuropsych. Trends 18/2015
  8. Romagno D., Rampinini A., Handjaras G., Leo A., Caramazza A., Ricciardi E., Pietrini P. (2015) The representation of word classes in the brain: an MVPA study. Proceedings of the Italian Society of Psychophysiology. Neuropsych. Trends 18/2015
  9. Cecchetti L., Rampinini A., Marani A., Ricciardi E., Pietrini P. (2015). Disentangling Deceiving from False Belief: an ALE meta-analysis of fMRI studies. Proceedings of the Italian Society of Psychophysiology. Neuropsych. Trends 18/2015
  10. Romagno D, Rampinini A, Handjaras G, Leo A, Caramazza A, Pietrini P, Ricciardi E (2015) MVPA reveals the cortical signature of verbs, adjectives and nouns. Abstract presented at the 21th Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping, Honolulu, Hawaii
  11. Rampinini A, Handjaras G, Leo A, Cecchetti L, Ricciardi E, Marotta G, Pietrini P (2015). Cortical signature of vowels in listening, covert & overt articulation. Abstract presented at the 21th Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping, Honolulu, Hawaii

PhD Thesis: Rampinini A.C. (2016), The functional neuroanatomy of the speech network: a shared phonological neural code for heard, imaged and spoken phonemes. Dissertation submitted to the University of Pisa in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Pathophysiology, sector M-PSI/02 - Psychobiology & Psychophysiology.

*working titles