Personale docente

Paola Sessa

Professore associato confermato


Indirizzo: VIA VENEZIA, 8 - PADOVA . . .

Telefono: 0498277455

Fax: 0498276547


  • Il Mercoledi' dalle 10:00 alle 12:00
    presso Via Venezia, 8 - Studio/Office: 03-013

Current Position:

2015 – present: Associate Professor, Dip. di Psicologia dello Sviluppo e della Socializzazione, University of Padova, Italy

Academic Experience:

2008 – 2015: Assistant Professor,Dip. di Psicologia dello Sviluppo e della Socializzazione, University of Padova, Italy
2005 – 2008: Postdoctoral fellow, Dip. di Psicologia dello Sviluppo e della Socializzazione,University of Padova, Italy
2005: Teaching and Research Associate, Dep. of Psychology,University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada


2005: PhD, Cognitive Sciences Supervisor: Prof. Roberto Dell’Acqua, Dip. di Psicologia dello Sviluppo e della Socializzazione,University of Padova, Italy
2001: Master Degree in Psychology (Experimental Psychology Program, University of Padova, Italy, final mark: 110/110 cum laude
2005 – 2008: Postdoctoral fellow, Dip. di Psicologia dello Sviluppo e della Socializzazione University of Padova

International research collaborations:

Prof. Shihui Han, Peking University, Beijing, China
Prof. Pierre Jolicoeur, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Prof. Rolf Verleger, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany
Prof. Harold Pashler, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
Dr. Roy Luria, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel


2006: National Award for Young Researchers sponsored by Italian Association of Psychology, Rovereto (TN);
2008: Invited talk at the International Congress of Psychology, Berlin;
2014: Invited talk at the International Conference on Cognitive Neuroscience, Brisbane.

Editorial and Review Activities

- Associate Editor for Scientific Reports
- Ad hoc reviewer for 18 International journals, including: Advances in Cognitive Psychology, Biological Psychology, Brain Research, Cerebral Cortex, Cognition and Emotion, Cognitive, Affective and Behavioural Neuroscience, Cognitive Neuroscience, Cortex, European Journal of Developmental Psychology, Experimental Psychology, Neuroimage, Neuropsychologia, PlosOne, Psychological Research, Psychophysiology, Scientific Reports, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Social Neuroscience
- Member of the Program Committee of the Meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research (2015).

Membership of Scientific Societies:

Associazione Italiana di Psicologia (AIP, sezioni Sperimentale e Sociale)
Society for Psychophysiological Research (SPR)
Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS)
Affective Neuroscience Society (SANS)
Association for Psychological Science (APS)
European Society for Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (ESCAN).

Research Interests:

Paola Sessa obtained her PhD in 2005 at the University of Padova and much of her initial research was on basic attentional and visual working memory processes. Since 2008, she co-directs the Electroencephalography Laboratory and is a member of the Cognitive Neuroscience Center (CNC) of the same University. Her research mostly focuses on using EEG/ERP to study how social cues conveyed by human faces, such as emotional expressions, group membership and perceived trustworthiness shape both low-level processes (resolution of faces’ representations in visual working memory) and empathy towards others’ emotional states.

Publications: see

Note: She is also Member of the College Board of the Ph.D. School in Psychological Sciences (University of Padova).


Sessa, P., Meconi, F., & Han, S. (2014). Double dissociation of neural responses supporting perceptual and cognitive components of social cognition: Evidence from processing of others’ pain. Scientific Reports, 4, 7424. DOI:10.1038/srep07424.

Meconi, F., Luria, R., & Sessa, P. (2014). Individual differences in anxiety predict neural measures of visual working memory for untrustworthy faces. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9, 1872–41879.

Sessa, P., Meconi, F., Castelli, L., & Dell'Acqua R. (2014). Taking one's time in feeling other-race pain: An event-related potential investigation on the time-course of cross-racial empathy. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9, 454–463.

Sessa, P., Tomelleri, S., Luria, R., Castelli, L., Reynolds, M., & Dell'Acqua, R. (2012). Look out for strangers! Sustained neural activity during visual working memory maintenance of other-race faces is modulated by implicit racial prejudice. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 7, 314-321.

Sessa, P., Luria, R., Gotler, A., Jolicœur, P., & Dell'Acqua, R. (2011). Inter-hemispheric ERP asymmetries over inferior parietal cortex reveal differential visual working memory maintenance for fearful versus neutral facial identities. Psychophysiology, 48, 187–197.

Breve presentazione (chi sono?)

Sono Paola Sessa, Professore Associato dell’Università di Padova. I miei principali interessi di ricerca riguardano lo studio dell’empatia, delle espressioni facciali di emozioni e della simulazione (incarnata) mediante l’impiego delle tecniche delle neuroscienze, in primis l’elettroencefalografia. Ai seguenti link potete leggere di più su di me e sul mio lavoro nell’ambito delle neuroscienze:

- Link al mio gruppo di ricerca (CoLab):

- Link alla mia pagina della didattica:

- Twitter:

Research projects more in detail...

Empathy and simulative processes

(PI: Prof. Paola Sessa)

This line of research focuses on empathy and simulative processes, and on their neural underpinnings. The main interest is on how observer's and target's characteristics may modulate these processes. These "variables" include emotional facial expressions, perceived trustworthiness, group membership, humanity attribution and individual characteristics along with contextual cues in both normative and clinical adult populations. Preferential methods to study these aspects of empathy and simulative processes are techniques with high temporal resolution, such as the EEG and ERP as our main interest is to unravel the time-course of these processes. We are also planning to use hyperscanning (co-registration of brain activity from two or more interacting individuals) to study these same processes in a more ecological and potentially informative setting.

So far, we have been collaborating on these projects with Shihui Han (Peking University, China), Jeroen Vaes (Università di Trento), Pierre Jolicoeur (University of Montreal, Canada) and Jeorge Armony (McGill University, Canada).

At the present, we are planning new collaborations with colleagues expert on theory and methodology relative to hyperscanning, such as Lauri Parkkonen (Aalto University, Finland) and Dr. Ivana Konvalinka (University of Denmark, Denmark).

Faces representations

(PI: Prof. Paola Sessa)

This line of research mostly focuses on using EEG/ERP to study how social cues conveyed by human faces, such as emotional expressions, group membership, gaze direction and perceived trustworthiness may shape low-level processes, in particular resolution of faces’ representations in visual working memory.

So far, we have been collaborating on these projects with Pierre Jolicoeur (University of Montreal, Canada) and Roy Luria (Tel-Aviv University, Israel), who are both experts of visual working memory processes and their neural correlates.

Proposte di tesi triennali e magistrali sia a carattere bibliografico che sperimentale, nel settore delle neuroscienze affettive e sociali, in particolare riguardo ai seguenti temi:

1. Empatia
2. Espressioni facciali e emozioni
3. Intersoggettività (meccanismi di simulazione e teoria della mente)
4. Co-registrazione dell'attività neurale di due o più persone in interazione


Main lines of research, expecially for graduate students and PhD students:


I use EEG/ERP methods to investigate the neural underpinnings of empathy, in particular empathy for pain. Do empathic subprocesses (neural resonance, mentalizing) interact? And if they interact, under which circumstances?

2.Social interaction, joint attention and shared experiences

I am planning to use EEG/ERP method in the context of hyperscanning (e.g. recording EEG from two "interacting" subjects) to study social interaction during "real" interaction.

3.Relationship between emotion detection and neural resonance/empathy (feeling other's emotion).

Are these functions subserved by different brain networks? How do these networks communicate?

And in collaboration with colleagues expert in the field of parenting and mother-infant/child interaction, we are planning to investigate:


Does specific neural circuits for parenting exist? Are such circuits different in mothers and fathers? Are such circuits different between biological and forest parents? Are such circuits already activated during pregnancy?

5.Early adult/parent-infant interactions from the affective-neuroscience’s perspective

Is it possible to study in vivo the neural response of an adult interacting with his child? Is the neural and physiological activation of the adult/parent synchronous with the physiological responses of the infant? Does the attachment style of the parent influence neural activation of the adult interacting with the infant?

- Si avvisano gli studenti che non posso dare disponibilità come relatore di tesi (sia triennali che magistrali) per l'anno accademico 2017/2018 a causa di un esubero di laureandi.