A chat with the expert: Rosalba Morese


Institutional Communication Service

31 January 2020

Rosalba Morese is the fourth guest/expert invited at L’ideatorio for an informal chat with the public that will be held on Saturday, 15 February at Cadro. Postdoctoral assistant at USI Faculty of Communication Sciences, she earned her PhD in neuroscience at the University of Turin. The conference held in Italian will focus on "Emotions and mirror neurons", a subject that will reveal Morese's interdisciplinary skills, in fact, Morese's research touches mostly two disciplines that also mark her formative path: neuroscience and social psychology.

After earning a degree in Psychology at the University of Parma, she later held various teaching positions at the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. Her interest in neuroscience began during her studies, when she attended a course held by the group of neuroscientists who discovered mirror neurons. "That conference marked my formative path. The curiosity to see with different eyes the psychological processes studied by social psychology arose” says Morese “… being able to experiment new approaches to the study of the mind and social behaviour is the challenge that fascinates me the most".

What exactly are mirror neurons and how do they relate to our emotions? "Mirror neurons allow us not only to understand the actions of others but also their intentions and emotions. Through this mechanism, others 'resonate' within us: for example, watching someone feel pain elicits the same mechanism and we experience empathy" explains Morese. Empathy plays a central role in our social life, touching other spheres such as culture or the family and social system. In her research, Morese investigates in the field of social neuroscience the neurophysiological mechanisms involved during communication and our interactions, using very sophisticated methods such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which allows us to understand the brain bases of many behaviors. "In the latest research published with colleagues from the University of Vienna we studied the effect of social support after experiencing the painful reality of social exclusion. The participants in the study were screened during social exclusion and after receiving support from a loved one through the touch of the hand. Results show how physical social support can relieve the pain caused by exclusion, most likely because it reduces brain activation," continues Morese.

The use of different theoretical models, such as neurophysiological and psychological models, makes it possible to combine different levels of analysis. Ticino has proved to be the ideal place for Morese to combine several disciplines and experiment with new paths: "I was won over by USI's interdisciplinary structure and approach, specifically the one of the Faculty of Communication Sciences and of the Institute of Public Health of the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences to which I belong. Here the dialogue between different disciplines allows for new research perspectives to be developed and new frontiers to be reached, which are fundamental aspects for a researcher. All this in a context that fosters the exchange with researchers of the highest international level, in a region very sensitive to the issues concerning my research" concludes Morese.