My research focuses on face and gaze perception, social cognition and social learning in typical development and autism. More specifically, my PhD project investigates how gaze direction, emotion, referential cues and motivational value influence the allocation of attention in young typically developing children and adults as well as in individuals with autism. To investigate the social modulation of cue-reward associations, my research primarily uses gaze-contingent paradigms.
PhD Psychology Birkbeck, University of London, UK, 2012-present
MSc Neurosciences & Neuropsychology, University of Toulouse, France, 2008-2010
BSc Cell biology, University of Angers, France, 2005-2008
Research Assistant, Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London, 2011-2016
Honorary Research Assistant, Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London, 2010-2011
Honorary Research Assistant, Centre for Psychopathology studies, University of Toulouse, France, 2008-2010
Demonstrator / Teaching Assistant
Department of Psychological Sciences, School of Science, Birkbeck, University of London, 2014-present
- Introduction to Research Methods (BSc Psychology)
- Research Methods II (BSc and MSc Psychology)
- Advanced Research Methods (BSc Psychology)
Public engagement and Research dissemination
Research-based public engagement events ‘Brain detectives’ - Centre for Research in Autism and Education, UCL - Institute of Education, London, UK Project Leader: Pr. Liz Pellicano. 2015-present
Contributing to the organization and running of a series of successful public engagement events. Children and young people with and without autism take part in real research experiments and science-related activities designed to be engaging, straightforward and to accommodate the need of the participants. The Brain detectives’ workshops aim at promoting learning about the brain and mind and are hosted 2-3 times throughout the year for 4-5 day periods.
Neurodiversity Stall - Green Man Festival, Wale, UK - Centre for Research in Autism and Education, UCL - Institute of Education. August 2016
Contribution to the setup and running of a stall-based public engagement showcased at the Green Man Festival. The focus of the stall was on neurodiversity and the brain and aimed to convey the complexities of the brain, emphasizing how everybody’s brain is different as well as to promote awareness on neurodiversity and autism, tolerance and acceptance by engaging with the general public in a relaxed, informal way.
Media - Birkbeck press release - March 2017
Article: New study provides unique insights regarding how children learn to attend to social cues.
Vernetti, A., Smith, T.J., & Senju, A. (2017). Gaze-contingent reinforcement learning reveals incentive value of social signals in young children and adults. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. pdf
Senju, A., Vernetti, A., Ganea, N., Hudry, K., Tucker, L., Charman, T., & Johnson, M. H. (2015). Early social experience affects the development of eye gaze processing. Current Biology, 25(23), 3086-3091. pdf
Southgate, V., & Vernetti, A. (2014). Belief-based action prediction in preverbal infants. Cognition, 130(1), 1-10. pdf
Senju, A., Vernetti, A., Kikuchi, Y., Akechi, H., & Hasegawa, T. (2013). Cultural modulation of face and gaze scanning in young children. PloS one, 8(8). pdf
Senju, A., Vernetti, A., Kikuchi, Y., Akechi, H., Hasegawa, T., & Johnson, M. H. (2013). Cultural background modulates how we look at other persons’ gaze. International journal of behavioral development, 37(2), 131-136. pdf
Vernetti, A., Gliga, T. & The BASIS team. (2016, 7th Nov). Gaze-contingent eye tracking: measuring the motivational value of social signals in children with and without autism. Invited talk presented at the Eye-tracking and Autism - Neurosciences Society Workshop, University of Rouen, France.
Vernetti, A., Smith, T.J., & Senju, A. (2016, 11th-14th May). Social Cues Modulate Learning of Cue-Reward Association in Typically Developing Children and Adults: A Gaze-Contingent Learning Paradigm. Poster presented at The International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR), Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Vernetti, A., Smith, T.J., & Senju, A. (2016, 19th April). Incentive value of social signals in young children and adults: a gaze-contingent learning paradigm. Talk presented at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development Internal Seminar, London, UK.
Vernetti, A., Helminen, T.M., Hietanen, J.K., Käpynen, J., Wass, S., Leppänen, J.M., Senju, A. & Kylliäinen, A. (2014, 11th-12th Sept) The effect of contingent emotional response and gaze direction on attentional disengagement from faces in young children with autism. Poster presented at the COST ESSEA Final Conference, Toulouse, France.
Vernetti, A., Ingram, H., Gliga, T. & The BASIS team. (2014, 4th-5th Sept). How toddlers at-risk for autism interact with (virtual) social agents. Poster presented at the London Virtual Social Interaction Workshop, UCL, London, UK.
Vernetti, A., Smith, T.J. & Senju, A. (2014, 19th May). Social attention and reward processing in typical development and autism. Talk presented at the Research workshop 'Eye contact: Typicality and atypicality in a vital process of social cognition', Human Information Processing laboratory, University of Finland, Tampere, Finland.
Vernetti, A., Smith, T.J. & Senju, A. (2013, 8th11th Oct). Social attention and reward processing in typical development and autism. Poster presented at the Workshop Dividnorm 2013 Epistemic variability: Cross-cultural studies, Neuchatel, Switzerland