#OffTheWater with Chiara Avancini








#OffTheWater Chiara from Italy to Cambridge – Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychophysiology


What did you eat last night?  Is 3 + 4 = 6 correct?

While it probably took you just a few seconds to answer these questions, your brain engaged several cognitive mechanisms that allowed you to retrieve such information from your memory.  Just like rowers get a big amount of work done before many people even wake up!  Your brain processes a lot of complex information even before you blink your eyes.

Working Memory

I am interested in working memory.   Working memory is a system that temporarily stores and manipulates information needed to perform many cognitive tasks such as reading, maths, visuospatial tasks. In particular, I am interested in how the physiological arousal caused by anxiety impacts on the efficiency of working memory. To do so, I use a variety of measures spanning from behavioural data modelling to electromyography and electroencephalography data analysis.


My interest in cognitive neuroscience and psychophysiology developed gradually. As an undergraduate student, I studied psychology and interpersonal relationships at the University of Padua (Italy). However, I found myself more interested in psychobiology and statistics than in interpersonal relationships and psychodynamics. Thinking that jumping straight to neuroscience would have been a bit of a stretch, I took a masters in clinical psychology focussing on cognitive and behavioural interventions. During my Masters I carried out a research project on brain correlates of maths cognition. I fell in love with the research process and science, I decided to apply to Cambridge to pursue a PhD at the Department of Psychology.


During my PhD, rowing has been a big part of my life. I rowed for my College (Newnham) and decided to trial for the CUWBC lightweight boat just a few months before handing in my PhD thesis. Juggling trialling and the completion of my PhD has been challenging to say the least. I recently passed my PhD viva.   I can say that rowing has given me the structure and mental toughness that are crucial for being academically successful.

Chiara Avancini


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