Dr. Emiliano Zaccarella

Dr. Emiliano Zaccarella

Group leader, Postdoc representative

Main Focus

I am a cognitive neuroscientist leading the Merge Computations Group in the department of Neuropsychology of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences Leipzig, Germany. Our aim is to understand how the brain builds-up linguistic structures out of single words (merge). We use fMRI, sMRI, EEG, TMS, behavioural measures and computational modelling to test modality-independence (visual, acoustic, signed) and domain-specificity (conceptual, motor) of the most fundamental combinatorial computations for language (lexical access, stringing, categorization, hierarchization).

All projects focus on how such computations are topographically organized, they temporally unfold, and the way they causally interact on the cortical surface. We therefore seek to understand the general organizational principles of combinatorial abstraction in the brain.

I am active member of the The Max Planck PostdocNet, an organization of Max Planck postdoctoral researchers who have united to represent the needs and opinions of the collective postdoctoral researcher pool of the Max Planck Society.
The PostdocNet was founded in 2019 with the support of the Max Planck Society.

I grew up in Masserie La Cortefòr-al:trajenra, Italy.

Curriculum Vitae

since 2019
Research Group Leader, Postdoc representative
Max Planck Institute Leipzig, Department of Neuropsychology (Germany)

Max Planck Institute Leipzig, Department of Neuropsychology (Germany)

Ph.D. – Cognitive Sciences
Summa cum Laude
"Breaking down Complexity:
The Neural Basis of the Syntactic Merge Mechanism in the Human Brain"

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Angela D. Friederici
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Isabell Wartenburger
Max Planck Institute Leipzig, Department of Neuropsychology (Germany)
Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Germany)
Universität Potsdam, Department of Linguistics (Germany)

Master's Degree – Linguistics
Summa cum Laude

"Discourse-Related Features and the Status of Right-Dislocation:
A Cross-linguistic Perspective"

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Luigi Rizzi
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Adriana Belletti
Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences
Department of Communication Sciences
Università di Siena (Italy)


CISCL (Interdepartmental Center for Cognitive Studies of Language)
Università di Siena (Italy)

Parsed Corpora in Language Development and Language Processing
CHILDES (Child Language Data Exchange System)
DCPSE (Diachronic Corpus of Spoken English)
ICECUP (ICE Corpus Utility Program)

Erasmus Scholarship

Faculty of Humanities
Department of Linguistics and English Language
University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom)

Bachelor's Degree – Communication Sciences
Summa cum Laude

"Parametric Investigation in Comparative Syntax.
A case study: Chinese Speakers Acquiring the Italian Relative Clause"

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Luigi Rizzi
Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences
Università di Siena (Italy)


Otto Hahn Medal 2017

Mind and Brain Scholarship, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Germany)

Special Function:

  • Postdoc representative
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