Keynote Speakers


MODELACT Conference

Call & Topics
Keynote Speakers
Venue & Accomodation



Anna Borghi (University of Bologna)

From affordances to abstractness: An embodied and grounded perspective on language
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Anna M. Borghi obtained her PhD in Psychology in 1997. She was researcher at the University of Bologna from 1999 to 2005. In October 2005 she became associate professor in Psychology (M/PSI-01). Her research interests, moving from an embodied and grounded cognition perspective, concern the relationships between categorization, language and action; she is particularly interested in how we process affordances and how we learn and represent abstract concepts. She carries on mostly experimental research and occasionally she performs research with neural networks simulations. Since 2001 she is associate researcher by the Institute of Sciences and Technologies of Cognition, CNR, Rome. She was visiting scholar in some American universities: 1994 and 1996, University of Chicago (collaboration with prof. Larry Barsalou), 2000 ad 2001, Emory University, Atlanta (collaboration with prof. Larry Barsalou), 2002, University of Wisconsin, Madison (collaboration with prof. Art Glenberg). She is associate editor of the journals Frontiers in Psychology, PeerJ, and Psychological Research, she is in the editorial board of the journal Sistemi Intelligenti and in the board of reviewers of the journal Cognitive Science. She has coordinated the European project ROSSI, Emergence of Communication in RObots through Sensorimotor and Social Interaction (FP7, call Cognitive Systems).

Angelo Cangelosi (Plymouth University)

Developmental Robotics for Embodied Language Learning
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Angelo Cangelosi is Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Cognition and the Director of the Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems at Plymouth University (UK). Cangelosi studied psychology and cognitive science at the Universities of Rome La Sapienza and at the University of Genoa, and was visiting scholar at the University of California San Diego and the University of Southampton. Cangelosi's main research expertise is on language grounding and embodiment in humanoid robots, developmental robotics, human-robot interaction, and on the application of neuromorphic systems for robot learning. He currently is the coordinator of the UK EPSRC project  “BABEL: Bio-inspired Architecture for Brain Embodied Language” (2012-2016) and of the EU H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Industrial Doctorate “APRIL: Applications of Personal Robotics through Interaction and Learning” (2016-2019). He also is Principal investigator for the ongoing projects “THRIVE” (US Air Force Office of Science and Research, 2014-1018), the FP7 projects POETICON++ and ROBOT-ERA, and the Marie Curie projects SECURE, DCOMM, ORATOR and DECORO. He was coordinator of the ITALK Integrating project and the RobotDoc ITN. Overall, he has secured over £15m of research grants as coordinator/PI. Cangelosi has produced more than 250 scientific publications, and has chaired numerous workshops and conferences including the IEEE ICDL-EpiRob 2011 and 2013 Conferences (Frankfurt 2011, Osaka 2013). In 2012-13 he was Chair of the IEEE Technical Committee on Autonomous Mental Development. Cangelosi is Editor (with K. Dautenhahn) of the journal Interaction Studies, and in 2015 was Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Transactions on Autonomous Development. His latest book “Developmental Robotics: From Babies to Robots” (MIT Press; co-authored with Matt Schlesinger) was published in January 2015.

Luciano Fadiga (University of Ferrara, Center Coordinator IIT-CTNSC@UniFe)

Alessandro D'Ausilio (IIT-CTNSC@UniFe)

The common origins of language and action
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Luciano Fadiga is Full Professor of Human Physiology at the University of Ferrara and Coordinator of the IIT Center of Translational Neurophysiology for Speech and Communication (CTNSC@UniFe). He has a long experience in electrophysiology and neurophysiology in monkeys and humans. Among his contributions: (1) The description of the functional properties of the monkey ventral premotor cortex where, together with his Parma colleagues, he discovered a class of neurons that respond both when the monkey performs actions and when it observes similar actions made by other individuals (mirror neurons); (2) The first demonstration that a mirror system exists also in humans; (3) The demonstration that a similar motor resonance is activated during speech listening and involves tongue-related motor centres; (4) The first demonstration that, in humans, the frontal area for speech production (Broca’s area) is almost constantly activated by action observation; (5) The very recent demonstration that Broca’s area-activation reflects a primary role played by this area in pragmatically understanding actions of others; this finding opens new landscapes on the evolution of the human language.
Luciano Fadiga is currently leading a group of researchers at the University of Ferrara, where he continues his research on monkey ventral premotor cortex and on humans. He is leading a group of researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology to investigate the possibility to establish hardware communication between the human brain and artificial device (cortical interfaces). He is actively involved in researches on human-human and human-robot interaction, from speech recognition to action understanding. Luciano Fadiga is reviewer of many international journals in the field of Neuroscience and associated editor of some of them. He was principal investigator in CNR projects on reaching-grasping, he is actually responsible of European Projects on action and speech recognition and control, he was co-investigator in Human Frontier Science Program and McDonnel-Pew funded projects. He published more than 80 peer-reviewed publications on international Journals. His work has received more than 25,000 citations (H-Index, 50).

Alessandro D'Ausilio studied Experimental Psychology and obtained a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the Sapienza University of Rome (2007 - Prof. Olivetti Belardinelli). During the Ph.D. he spent extended research periods both at MIT (Brain and Cognitive Science Department, McGovern Institute for Brain Research - Prof. Bizzi) and the Eberhart-Karls-Universität in Tübingen (Institut für Medizinische Psychologie und Verhaltensneurobiologie - Prof. Birbaumer and Prof. Lotze). Soon after the Ph.D. he received a three-years postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Ferrara (Section of Human Physiology - Prof. Fadiga and Prof. Craighero). He later joined the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genova, first as a Senior Post-doc (Prof. Sandini and Prof. Fadiga) and then since 2012 as a Researcher in the Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department. In 2016 he moved to the IIT Center of Translational Neurophysiology for Speech and Communication, hosted by the University of Ferrara. His research interests revolve around the neural bases of verbal and non-verbal communication, and more specifically on the role played by the motor system in coding/decoding these messages.

Katerina Pastra (Cognitive Systems Research Institute, Athens)

Recursion all the way: in Language, Action and Semantic Association
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Katerina Pastra is the Director of the Cognitive Systems Research Institute, and a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Language and Speech Processing, ATHENA Research Center. She has coordinated a number of European and national research and development projects, including POETICON++(FP7-ICT), its predecessor POETICON (FP7-ICT) and a distinguishing Latsis Foundation award for research on “Image-Language Dialectics”. Her research is focused on the computational integration of language, perception and action based on experimental findings from neuroscience. Among others, she has developed the first ‘Minimalist Grammar of Action’, the PRAXICON semantic memory model, the PLT affordances network and the COSMOROE image-language semantic interplay framework.
Katerina holds a BA in Linguistics (University of Athens, Greece), an MSc in Machine Translation (UMIST, UK) and a PhD in Artificial Intelligence (University of Sheffield, U.K.) in which she explored the integration of vision and language within artificial agents engaged in everyday interaction. She has worked on information extraction and automatic text-based image/video indexing and retrieval in a number of projects. She has lectured on Human-Computer/Human-Robot Interaction and the use of cognitive and psychological methods in software engineering and has organised international workshops on image-language association with sponsorships from GOOGLE, the EU-Cognition Network and other international foundations. She is the author of a number of publications on the above topics, one of which has won a distinction by the British Computer Society. She is a Senior IEEE Member, the vice-chair of the European Network on Vision and Language Integration, and co-editor of the Language and Cognition Research Topic in Frontiers in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

Friedemann Pulvermüller (Freie Universität Berlin)

Semantic grounding in mind and brain – is there an alternative?
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Friedemann Pulvermüller is Professor of Neuroscience of Language and Pragmatics at the Freie Universität Berlin, where he directs the Brain Language Laboratory (www.brainlang.fu-berlin.de). He discovered that neuronal activity recorded from the human brain indexes very rapid meaning comprehension, within 1/5 to 1/10 of a second. At such early latencies, the brain and mind not only discriminates between meaningful words and senseless pseudowords, but also between words with different meanings, for example in the motor system where action words and constructions ‘ignite’ their related body-part representations. Pulvermüller published several books and over 200 research articles, putting forward a neurobiological model of language that explains language mechanisms by neuroscience principles and spells out phonological, lexical, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic mechanisms in terms of neurons, neuronal assemblies and their connections. He translated novel insights from experimental and theoretical neuroscience into new treatment methods for patients with post-stroke aphasia; his Constraint-Induced Aphasia Therapy and Intensive Language-Action Therapy substantially improved the perspectives of stroke patients with language deficits, even at the chronic stage.

Shirley-Ann Rueschemeyer (University of York)

Sensorimotor semantics: How perceptual experience relates to on-line language processing
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Shirley-Ann Rueschemeyer studied Linguistics and Psychology at the University of Regensburg, Germany. She completed her PhD in Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany in 2005. From 2006-2011 she worked as a postdoctoral researcher and research fellow at the Donders Centre in Nijmegen, NL. In 2011 she moved to the University of York, where she is currently a Senior Lecturer (Assoc. Professor) in the Department of Psychology. Her research interests include understanding how word meaning is represented in the brain, as well as uncovering the cognitive and neural bases of human social communication.