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Principal Investigators

Jorge Almeida

Curriculum vitae

I grew up in Lisbon, Portugal, where I received my BA in Psychology (2003; Faculty of Psychology, University of Lisbon). There I worked with Leonel Garcia Marques on topics of person perception, and Paulo Ventura on semantic memory. I then moved to Cambridge MA, USA, where I did my PhD (and MA) in Psychology at the Department of Psychology Harvard University (2011) with Alfonso Caramazza in the Cognitive Neuropsychology Laboratory and Ken Nakayama in the Vision Sciences Lab. I focused on the kinds of information that are processed unconsciously under continuous flash suppression, and on the processing of tools/manipulable objects. After my PhD I started working on the neural processing of tool items, focusing on how different types of tool-related information are processed in the brain and on how tool-related regions modulate the signal in other tool-related regions.

I am currently an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences – University of Coimbra, Portugal. I am now focusing on how object-related information is mapped in the brain and how local object-selectively is defined within domain-specific networks via long-range connectivity. To do so I use fMRI, neuromodulation and behavioural testing. I am currently the PI or Co-PI in 4 FCT research projects, and the PI of the first ERC grant in the field of Psychology in Portugal – ContentMAP. My core research topics are cognitive neuroscience, object recognition, neural organization of conceptual knowledge, category specificity in the brain, neuroplasticity, and effects of neurostimulation on neural processing. To address these questions, I have the pleasure of collaborating with fantastic researchers around the world namely Bradford Mahon and the CAOs Lab now at Carnegie Mellon University; Angelika Lingnau at Regensburg University; Yanchao Bi and Fang Fang at Beijing Normal University and Peking University respectively; Mel Goodale and Jody Culham at Western University, among others. 

Most importantly, I have been fortunate to have the help of an outstanding group of researchers at the Proaction Lab – you can meet them below!

Óscar Gonçalves

Óscar F. Gonçalves is currently a Full Professor at the University of Coimbra, Portugal and a Senior Research Associate at the Spaulding Neuromodulation Center, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital-Harvard Medical School. He held faculty positions at the University of California Santa Barbara (Assistant Professor) and Northeastern University (Full Professor and Chair of Applied Psychology). He graduated in Psychology from the University of Porto in Portugal, completed two doctoral degrees: one from the Counseling School and Consulting Psychology Program, University of Massachusetts, Amherst – USA; and another one in Neurosciences from the Faculty of Medicine - University of Santiago de Compostela – Spain. Professor Gonçalves is a licensed Clinical and Health Psychologist with board certifications in neuropsychology and psychotherapy. He was the founder and Director of the Neuropsychophysiology Lab (currently Psychological Neuroscience Lab) where he has been systematically researching the neural correlates of a variety of cognitive-emotional processes in different psychiatry and neurological conditions. 

Post-Doctoral Researchers

André Peres

André Peres holds a degree in Medical Physics from the University of São Paulo (2005), a Master's (2008) and PhD (2012) from the same University. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the Brain Institute - UFRN (2012-2016) and worked as an assistant professor at the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neurosciences - Santos Dumont Institute (2016-2019). Currently, he is a Junior Researcher at PROACTION Lab.

André's academic interests are centred on the dynamics of sensory processing, the integration between sensory systems and how environmental information is perceived by individuals. In human studies, he has used fMRI combined with machine learning techniques to understand how semantic categories are organized in the brain. In animal models, he used the electrophysiology technique with multi-electrode matrices. André has been also developing methods for brain stimulation as a neuronavigation system and protocols to assess the mismatch between the measured and nominal parameters of TMS. Find out more about him here.

Art Pilacinski

Art Pilacinski graduated in clinical psychology at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, and worked on his Master’s project at Marceli Nencki Intitute of Experimental Biology in Warsaw, where he studied sex differences in implicit learning (also known as intuition), and executive impairments in Parkinson’s disease. From Warsaw he moved to Tuebingen, where he worked with Axel Lindner on action planning, as part of NOD/NoCo Lab, and established a prototyping lab (fablab) for the University of Tuebingen. In the Proaction Lab he is working on the project Neurocobots: enhancing human-machine collaboration. He is generally interested in how the thoughts move the body and vice versa. You can find his personal page here.

Fredrik Bergström

Fredrik Bergström obtained his PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience (Sep. 2016), MSc in Psychology, BSc in Cognitive Science, AS in Philosophy, AS in Business Administration from Umeå University (Sweden). During his PhD, he investigated non-conscious working memory with Johan Eriksson and Lars Nyberg. After that, he was a postdoctoral researcher at Jorge Almeida’s Proaction Lab, where he focused on visual object recognition and the organization of conceptual knowledge. Currently, he is an independent researcher funded by an FCT Scientific Employment Stimulus, and principal investigator of the FCT research project “NetworktDCS”, which studies the effects of tDCS on functional brain networks.

Fredrik’s main interests are at the intersection of cognitive neuroscience and philosophy. He is currently working on topics such as how conscious experience relates to volition in (moral or economic) decision-making, the neural correlates of conscious experience, the limits of non-conscious cognition, and how levels of wakefulness relate to conscious experience. Fredrik is using psychophysics, neuroimaging, and neuromodulation techniques to address these topics.

Gabriel Besson

Gabriel Besson received a Master’s degree in computer science engineering specializing in image and signal processing at the University of Rennes (France) and an MSc oriented towards Cognitive Science at the University of Paris XI (France). Moving to cognitive neuroscience, he did his Ph.D. in collaboration with the University of Toulouse and the University of Aix-Marseille (France), and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Liège (Belgium), investigating familiarity for visual objects (the acontextual feeling of pre-exposure) and the role of the first cortical regions affected in Alzheimer's disease. To this aim, he had the chance to work with healthy and pathological populations and to use various neuroimaging approaches, like sMRI, PET, EEG, or resting-state fMRI.

Gabriel's general interest in visual object representations and how they transfer into knowledge and memory has led him to focus on how the brain does so, during the few hundreds of milliseconds following object presentation, in a way that could allow individual-level object recognition. At the Proaction lab, he is currently addressing this question using multivariate computational techniques and EEG during visual object perception.

Jon Walbrin

After completing his BSc in Psychology at Bangor University (Wales), Jon Walbrin joined the Developmental Social Vision Lab at Bangor with Dr Kami Koldewyn, where he completed an MSc in Neuroimaging, then PhD in Psychology. His PhD focused on using fMRI and MVPA approaches to investigate neural responses to dynamic social interactions, using a range of different dynamic stimuli (e.g. point-light figures, moving geometric shapes, and live-action videos)

Jon joined the PROACTION lab as a post-doc in March 2019, shortly after completing his PhD at Bangor University (Wales). During his post-doc, he hopes to use fMRI with MVPA approaches to investigate category-selective responses to tools, bodies, and human-tool interactions in the posterior temporal lobe, and wider brain.

Qasim Bukhari

Qasim Bukhari is a computational neuroscientist with a background in Electrical Engineering, Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence. He obtained a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from NED University, Pakistan, a Masters in Computer Science from University of Eastern Finland and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from ETH Zurich, Switzerland. He uses the artificial intelligence tools to help further our understanding of the human brain. He is an expert in signal processing, multivariate pattern recognition and machine learning. His unique contribution to research is the integration of sophisticated engineering tools to ask translational and basic neuroscience questions by combining his expertise in neuroscience and engineering. He has developed software for basic psychology, preclinical and clinical MRI research. At the Proaction Lab, he is a principal investigator of the FCT project, "Seeing Ears", that aims to investigate the brain plasticity in congenital deaf after the implantation of cochlear implants. Know more about him here.

Zohar Tal

Zohar Tal obtained her PhD in Neurobiology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel). In her thesis, Zohar studied principles of topographic organization, focusing on the somatosensory and visual systems and their cross-modal correspondence. Following, Zohar was a postdoctoral fellow in Tel-Aviv University (Israel), where she studied behavioural and neural adaptations of fruit bats to urban life. This project included the application of different functional and structural MRI methods to characterize the neural correlates underlying urban behavioural adaptations of fruit bat pups during their first navigation experience.

Currently, Zohar is a postdoctoral fellow at the Proaction lab, and her main research focuses on the topographic organization of sensory information and higher cognitive functions. As part of the ContentMAP project, Zohar is using various phase-locked and population receptive field (pRF) methods to explore the topographic principles that govern the organization of object knowledge in the brain.

PhD Students

Daniela Valério

Daniela Valério obtained her BA and Master’s degree in Psychology from the University of Coimbra (Portugal) and, during that time, she collaborated with the Proaction Lab where she developed strong theoretical and practical knowledge in neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience. After that, Daniela worked at Proaction Lab as a research assistant where she is now a PhD fellow.

Her PhD work is focused on the organization of object knowledge in the brain. Daniela has been using a multimodal approach that includes behavioural experiments, neuroimaging techniques (e.g., fMRI) and neuromodulation techniques (e.g., tDCS). Find out more about her here.

Lénia Amaral

Lénia Amaral obtained her BA and Master’s degree in Psychology from the University of Minho (Portugal) and, during that time, she managed to be involved in a series of research projects related with experimental psychology. After that, Lénia was a research assistant at the Proaction Lab (University of Coimbra, Portugal) under a project supported by the BIAL Foundation focused on neuromodulation applied to cognitive rehabilitation. Currently, she is a PhD fellow at the Proaction Lab focusing on visual object processing.

Her main areas of interest are neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience. She is interested in understanding how the dorsal and ventral streams differ in their involvement in the processing of two neurally and functionally interrelated object categories – hands and tools. Lénia has been using visual psychophysics and neuromodulation techniques (e.g.: tDCS) to address these questions while using a multimodal approach. Find out more about her here.

Miguel Baião

Miguel Baião received his BSc in Psychology from the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Lisbon, and his MSc in Neuroscience from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon. In his master thesis, he studied personality-based differences in the processing of subliminal affective stimuli, and the associated ERPs. Currently, Miguel is a PhD student at the Doctoral Program in Cognitive Science (ULisboa).

His Ph.D. work, supervised by Jorge Almeida and Gabriel Besson, focuses on the application of EEG and RSA to study the processing of tools at the category and token levels. His interests include unconscious versus conscious processing, conversion of visual maps into motor maps, topographic organization of information in the brain, and decoding of EEG signals. Find out more about him here.

Pedro Palhares

Pedro obtained his integrated double MSc in Psychology from the University of Minho (Portugal) and the University of Lille (France). During this period, he collaborated with neuropsychology, psycholinguistics, and cognitive neuroscience research units, developing a particular interest in the study of music perception, cognition and production. In his dissertation, he studied the relationship between mind-wandering phenomenology and musical creativity in a live jazz improvisation setting. Currently, Pedro is a PhD fellow at the Proaction Lab.

His main research interests are spontaneous thought phenomena and clinical translations of music neuroscience. In his PhD work, Pedro aims to expand on his dissertation by using electrophysiological and neuromodulation techniques to bridge the gap between mind-wandering phenomenology and its neural substrate.

Stephanie Kristensen

Stephanie received her BSc and MSc in Psychology at the Maastricht University (Netherlands). After graduation, she joined the Proaction Lab as a research assistant on a project supported by FCT investigating tool recognition using functional MRI and psychophysics. The work aimed at understanding how low-level segregation in the visual system influences high-level object representations. Currently, she is studying for a PhD in Cognitive Psychology and Neuropsychology at the Proaction lab.

Her research interests include visual perception, object recognition, and neuroimaging. Specifically, she is using functional MRI and behavioural measures to understand the cognitive representation and functional organization of manipulable objects in the healthy human brain.

Research Assistants

Fernanda Martinez

Fernanda received her bachelor's degree in Biomedical Engineering from the Autonomous University of Queretaro (Mexico). During her undergraduate, she worked on image quality assessment and protocol testing at the LANIREM, UNAM, where she also worked on several projects related to physiological signals acquisition, image processing, and functional MRI. For her thesis, she studied functional connectivity related to empathy and working memory on a group of workers who use different solvents, in order to explore if there were any effects on certain functional networks related to the exposure to solvents. She joined the Proaction Lab in October 2021 as a research assistant and she is interested in applying machine learning to object recognition and decoding.

Guilherme Garcia

Guilherme Garcia has a bachelor’s degree in Physics and a master's degree in Electrical Engineering. He has experience with image processing, computer vision applications and pattern recognition methods. During his undergraduate, he worked on several projects related to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) and functional MRI (fMRI). In contrast, during his master’s studies, he changed his domain of research and embraced the field of pattern recognition and the intersected areas of computer vision and image processing. Currently, as a research assistant at the Proaction Lab, Guilherme has been investigating the use of DTI to identify short-term white matter plasticity.

Marija Tochadse

Marija received her BSc degree in Psychology from Philipps-Universität Marburg and her MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience from Freie Universität Berlin. For her thesis, she worked at the Lifespan Neural Dynamics Group at the MPI for Human Development, where she examined how the cognitive decline in ageing relates to changes in explorative behaviour and neural flexibility. During her studies, she used fMRI and eye-tracking to understand brain signal variability and how it relates to viewing behaviour. After gaining experience as a tutor in cognitive psychology, Marija joined the Proaction Lab in June 2021 as a research assistant. Currently, she is interested in connectivity measures in structural and functional MRI, and their usage for decoding. She also works with RSA to examine tool representation in the cortex. Find more about her here.

Morteza Mahdiani

Morteza Mahdiani obtained his B.Sc in Computer Engineering from the Amirkabir University of Technology. After participating in many interdisciplinary research projects in data analysis and computational neuroscience, he decided to continue his scientific journey with more practical aspects of data science and artificial intelligence that led him to work with domestic and international companies.

Now he returned to Academia and joined the Proaction Lab in September 2021. Here he will to compare the visual activity of the human brain with artificial deep neural networks. In addition, he is committed to other research topics related to representations in the human brain too.

Science Communicators

Daniel Ribeiro

Daniel Ribeiro obtained his graduation in Applied Biology from the University of Minho (Braga, Portugal) but soon developed an interest in Science Communication. Shortly after, Daniel joined the STOL – Science Through Our Lives, a science communication group of that University. He later acquired his master’s degree in Science Communication by the NOVA School of Social Sciences and Humanities (Lisbon, Portugal). Daniel has worked at the Institute of Research and Innovation in Health (Porto, Portugal) and the National Natural History Museum of the University of Lisbon (Lisbon, Portugal). Daniel has joined the Proaction Lab in April, where he will be working on the communication and the project management of the Lab.

His main interests include social media management, multimedia production and mediatic relations. Tools such as Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Premiere are some of his favourites for carrying away his work. You can find more about him here.


Ema Leitão

Ema is currently in the third year of her BA in Psychology at the University of Coimbra and wishes to pursue Neuropsychology. She has been collaborating with Proaction Lab since the second year of her bachelor's, where she collected and analyzed data from behavioral experiments. So far, she has collaborated on a project involving the organization of object knowledge in the brain. At the moment, she's focused on developing her programming skills and learning more about neuroimaging techniques.

Filipa Dourado Sotero

Filipa Dourado Sotero is a neurology resident at Hospital Santa Maria – Centro Hospitalar Lisboa Norte - Lisbon, Portugal. She received her master's degree in Medicine from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra. Since the beginning of her career she has endeavoured to combine clinical and academic training. During her residency, Filipa developed a particular interest in cognitive and behavioural neurology, especially the study of apraxia. She is actively engaged in clinical and research activities related to actions, object use and object recognition. She is really looking forward to working with ProAction Lab!

Francisco Santos

Francisco obtained his BA in Psychology from the University of Aveiro and is currently a master student of the Interuniversity Master in Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology.
His main interests are neuromodulation and neuroimaging, and he wishes to further develop his skills in computer science. After joining Proaction Lab, he became a part of a research project where he will be collecting data using transcranial direct current stimulation tDCS. This project concerns the visual and visuomotor processing of hands and tools. Find more about him here.

Gabriella Andrietta

Gabriella Andrietta graduated in Psychological Sciences at the University of Coimbra and is currently a student of the Interuniversity Master’s in Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology (IMCEN).  
She assisted in Proaction Lab projects during her undergraduate studies, which nurtured her interest in cognitive neuroscience. She is interested in deepening her knowledge and learning about the different ways of the neuroscience field

João Pottes

João concluded his bachelor’s in Psychology at the University of Coimbra in 2019 and followed that by taking part in the first cohort of students of the Interuniversity Masters in Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology (UC, ULisboa, and UMinho). During his undergraduate studies, being able to participate in a research project on the effects of chronobiology and ageing on attentional processes helped to cement his aspirations for pursuing a career in cognitive neuroscience.

Currently, he is assisting in two research projects: one assessing the effects of high-frequency tRNS applied over hMT+ on coherent motion perception; the other evaluating the effects of tool affordance in spatial attentional shifts using eye-tracking. He is interested in delving into neurolinguistics and possibly memory research.

Joana Sayal

Joana obtained her BA in Psychology from the University of Coimbra and is currently a master student at Proaction Lab (Interuniversity Master in Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology). She has been collaborating with Proaction Lab since her second year of bachelor (October 2017), assisting the research by applying experiences to the subjects and analysing data with Matlab and SPSS. Her first collaboration was in a neuromodulation project involving a classical conditioning experiment (fear extinction) with transcranial direct current stimulation and its effect on anxiety. Later she began helping in a project about visual and visual-motor processing of hands and tools (ventral vs. dorsal streams), and right now Joana is focused on topics such as neuroplasticity and functional connectivity, working in projects with congenitally deaf participants, fMRI and analysing data with Brain Voyager.

Her main interests are techniques such as tDCS and fMRI, and she is deepening her knowledge in neuroplasticity, visual and auditory processing, neuropsychological pathology and, as a musician herself, music processing in the brain. Find more about her here

Rita Leite

Rita Leite obtained her BA in Psychology from the University of Coimbra and is currently a student of the Interuniversity Master in Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology at the Coimbra Campus. 
Her main interests are related to how the conceptual information is functionally organized in the brain, how our brain recognizes objects and how that information is processed. Rita is also focused on learning more about programming and techniques such tDCS and fMRI.
Besides that, Rita has an art background, which she tries to conciliate with her science projects.

Sara Scaletti

Sara Scaletti completed her BA in Psychobiology and Cognitive Science in Padova, Italy, with a final dissertation on "Depression and heart rate variability in ischemic heart disease patients: the moderating role of emotional regulation". There she also completed her Master's degree in Neuroscience and Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, with a final dissertation on "A mouse-tracking study on food choices: the role of executive control and dieting status". She joined the Proaction Lab in October 2021 for a post-graduate internship with a duration of 10 months. Her interests and areas of expertise reside in virtual reality, collaborative robotics, computational neuroscience, machine learning, and eating behaviors/eating disorders.