Giulia Serino

PhD student

Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development
Department of Psychological Sciences
Birkbeck, University of London


Research Interests

My research is focused on the development of the attention system during the first years of life. More specifically, I am interested in understanding the role of distraction from a developmental perspective. In the recent literature, distraction has become synonymous with poor attentional abilities or reflective of noisy and chaotic home environments. However, adaptive behaviour requires a person to be able to respond to stimuli outside the current focus of attention and to orient towards them if they could be behaviourally relevant or contribute to the current goal.

My research aims to investigate whether the concept of distraction can be reconceptualised as an attentional trait, whose extremes –either an over response to sensory stimulation or an inability to detect and orient attention towards salient and informative stimuli– are equally detrimental for adaptation and learning, while intermediate levels are beneficial. In particular, I aim to study whether too much or too little distractibility contributes to the emergence of optimal learning skills in toddlers and subsequent school achievement in later childhood, and whether this balance is related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) traits.



Prof Natasha Kirkham (Birkbeck, University of London)

Prof Denis Mareschal (Birkbeck, University of London) 

Prof Gaia Scerif (University of Oxford)


PhD Psychology, Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London (2020-present)

Erasmus+ for Studies Exchange Program, Donders Institute, Radboud University,
Research Masters in Behavioural Science and Cognitive Neuroscience

MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience and Clinical Neuropsychology (Distinction),
University of Padua (2017-2019)

BSc in Psychological Sciences and Techniques (Distinction),
University of Milan-Bicocca (2014-2017)


Selected Publications & Poster Presentations

Poli, F., Serino, G., Mars, R. B., & Hunnius, S. (2020). Infants tailor their attention to maximize learning. Science Advances,6(39), eabb5053.
Serino, G., Gossé L., Pinti, P., & Kirkham, N. Using fNIRS to investigate the neural correlates of the orienting response in 8-month-old infants. Poster presented at the International Congress of Infant Studies, July 2022
Serino, G., & Kirkham, N. Infants learn complex visual structures and then what? Poster presented at the Statistical Learning Conference, June 2022.
Serino, G., Mareschal D., Scerif G., & Kirkham N. Playing hide and seek: what environmental cues drive young children’s memory-guided attention? Poster Presented at Budapest CEU Conference on Cognitive Development, January 2021.
Serino, G., Mareschal D., Scerif G., & Kirkham N. Playing hide and seek: What environmental cues drive young children’s memory-guided attention and further learning? Poster Presented at the Lancaster Conference on Infant and Early Child Development, August 2021.



UCL, Bloomsbury and East London DTP – International Institutional Visit (IIV): fundings towards gaining research skills.
ESRC +3 PhD studentship (2020 – 2023): Fully funded studentship to cover PhD fees, living expenses and
research expenses.
ESRC Advanced Quantitative Methods (2020 – 2023): funding towards gaining skills in quantitative methods. Erasmus+ forTraineeship (Oct. 2019 – Feb. 2020): internship exchange program, funding to cover living
Erasmus+ for Traineeship (March. 2019 – July 2019): internship exchange program, funding to cover living
Erasmus+ for Studies (Sept. 2018 – Feb.2019): study exchange program, funding to cover living expenses.