Sara Mazzini

Sara is a PhD student in the Neurobiology of Language Department at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. She is originally from Italy, where she obtained a Bachelor in Psychology from the University of Bologna. Then, she moved to the Netherlands to study Cognitive Neuroscience at Maastricht University and she started her PhD in February 2021.

The neuroscience of language captured her interest while learning foreign languages and wondering how the brain processes all this information. During her master, she studied the neural mechanisms underlying language production, focusing on brain waves and the encoding of syntax.

For her PhD, she is investigating the role of neural synchrony in face-to-face communication, by studying communication in its natural context: multimodal social interactions. Are the brains of conversational partners synchronizing when communication is successful? Does neural synchrony play a role in integrating different sources of information, such as speech and gestures?

In her spare time, Sara enjoys cooking, working out and traveling.

Sleep talking: what happens in your brain?

Humans spend the majority of their time communicating: speaking and listening make up to 60% of our day. But did you know that about 66% of people experience talking in their sleep as well? Sleep talking is defined as the production of speech (words and sentences) or vocalisations (mumbles, whispers, and laughs) during sleep. However, if you tell someone that they were sleep talking, they will likely not remember it! In fact, when someone talks during their sleep, they are not really aware of it.

Synesthesia: a colourful alphabet!

For some people, the name of their best friend is bright green. For others, their telephone number has the colours of the rainbow. This may sound odd to most of you, but for four percent of people around the world this is a daily experience known as synesthesia. People with synesthesia are also known as synesthetes. For them, particular stimuli from their daily life can elicit multiple sensations; for instance, hearing a specific musical tone can elicit the perception of a specific colour or touching an object can elicit the sensation of taste.

Code-switching: One sentence, two languages

We live in a multicultural and multilingual world, where being able to communicate in more than one language is the norm for many people. As bilingualism plays such a fundamental role in our society, it has naturally become a topic of interest for the scientific community in recent decades. In particular, scientists are intrigued by a phenomenon they call code-switching, which is defined as ‘mixing or changing the structures, vocabulary and other components of at least two languages’.