Dr Maria Filippetti

Senior Lecturer
Department of Psychology
Dr Maria Filippetti
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 873780

  • Location

    2.701, Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    Please email me to book an appointment



I am a developmental cognitive neuroscientist investigating the development of body representations. In particular, I am interested in the role of multisensory integration in how infants learn about their bodies. I completed my undergraduate and master degrees in Developmental and Educational Psychology at University of Padua, in Italy. I then moved to London to start a PhD at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck College London. During my PhD, I studied the developmental origins of body perception using behavioural techniques and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). I did a postdoc at Royal Holloway University of London focused on the interaction between interoceptive and exteroceptive body-related signals in the development of body-awareness in infants and adults. My second postdoc was at University College London where I furthered my expertise on self- and body-awareness across the lifespan, with a specific focus on affective touch. I joined the Department of Psychology of University of Essex in Autumn 2017 as a lecturer. My current research investigates the developmental precursors of self-recognition and the development of interoceptive processing with a specific focus on feeding and eating behaviours.


  • PhD in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Birkbeck University of London,


University of Essex

  • Lecturer, Psychology, University of Essex (4/9/2017 - 30/9/2023)

  • Senior Lecturer, Psychology, University of Essex (1/10/2023 - present)

Research and professional activities

Research interests

body representations

Open to supervise


Open to supervise

hunger and satiety

Open to supervise

multisensory development

Open to supervise

Current research

Multisensory integration and body awareness across the lifespan

What makes your body your own? How do babies learn to distinguish between their own and other people’s bodies? The purpose of this research is to study how human beings develop an integrated sense of self that is grounded to a coherent body, and how different processes interact together to maintain and updated body awareness. While my work focuses on infancy and childhood, I am also interested in adults’ body awareness.

The development of interoceptive processing

Unlike other species, human babies enter the world completely dependent on their caregivers to manage their needs. For example, during feeding parental behaviour can influence the development of infants’ ability to sense their hunger and satiety signals. I am interested in understanding the relationship between interoception in caregivers and infants’ ability to promptly identify and correctly interpret their internal changes in sensations.


The ability to recognize one’s face is considered a fundamental aspect within the spectrum of selfhood. However, what is believed to be the most representative instance of personal identity is probably the less reliable representation of the self; the rather infrequent encounters we have with our own face are in fact mediated by a reflecting surface and likely distorted by a variety of expectations shaped by ourselves and others. How do we balance this information in order to maintain a contentment and stable mental representation of our own identity?

Conferences and presentations

Neural correlates of self-recognition in 6- to 8- month-old infants

Federation of the Europena Society of Neuropsychology, Thessaloniki, Greece, 25/9/2023

Neural correlates of self-recognition in 6- to 8- month-old infants

Societa Italiana di Psicofisiologia e Neuroscienze Cognitive Italy, 14/9/2022

Neural correlates of self-recognition in 6- to 8- month-old infants

International Congress of Infant Studies, Ottowa, Canada, 8/7/2022

Becoming you: the development of body and self-face representations

Invited presentation, Active Self Summer School, Feldafing, Germany, 1/6/2022

Self-identification in childhood:Changes in self-other boundaries modulate children’s body image attitudes

Experimental Psychology Society, Nottingham, United Kingdom, 6/1/2022

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Growing in the World (PS102)

  • Psychology of Health (PS423)

  • Making connections: How children develop (PS507)

  • MSc Psychology Research Project (PS900)

  • Advanced Brain and Behaviour (PS943)

  • Advanced Psychology of Health (PS951)

  • Brain and Behaviour (PS411)

Previous supervision

Francesca Bianco
Francesca Bianco
Thesis title: Theory of Mind Across Biological and Artificial Embodiment: Theory, Experiments and Computational Models
Degree subject: Electronic Systems Engineering
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 6/7/2022
Mehrin Kiani
Mehrin Kiani
Thesis title: Explainable Artificial Intelligence for Functional Brain Development Analysis: Methods and Applications.
Degree subject: Computer Science
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 6/7/2022


Publications (1)

Filippetti, ML., Clarke, A. and Rigato, S., (2021). The mental health crisis of expectant women in the UK: effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on prenatal mental health, antenatal attachment and social support

Journal articles (26)

Kirsch, LP., Tanzer, M., Filippetti, ML., Von Mohr, M. and Fotopoulou, A., Mothers are more egocentric towards their own child’s bodily feeling. Communications Psychology

Filippetti, ML., Andreu-Perez, J., De Klerk, C. and Rigato, S., (2023). Are advanced methods necessary to improve infant fNIRS data analysis? An assessment of baseline-corrected averaging, general linear model (GLM) and multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) based approaches. NeuroImage. 265, 119756-119756

Cook, C., Crucianelli, L. and Filippetti, ML., (2023). Changes in self-other boundaries modulate children’s body image attitudes. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 17

Rigato, S., Filippetti, ML. and De Klerk, CJM., (2023). Infants’ representations of the infant body in the first year of life: A preferential looking time study. Scientific Reports. 13 (1), 14091-

Filippetti, ML., Clarke, ADF. and Rigato, S., (2022). The mental health crisis of expectant women in the UK: effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on prenatal mental health, antenatal attachment and social support. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 22 (1), 68-

Morris, AJ., Filippetti, ML. and Rigato, S., (2022). The Impact of Parents’ Smartphone Use on Language Development in Young Children. Child Development Perspectives. 16 (2), 103-109

Andreu-Perez, J., Hagras, H., Kiani, M., Rigato, S. and Filippetti, ML., (2022). Towards Understanding Human Functional Brain Development with Explainable Artificial Intelligence: Challenges and Perspectives. IEEE Computational Intelligence Magazine. 17 (1), 16-33

de Klerk, CCJM., Filippetti, ML. and Rigato, S., (2021). The development of body representations: an associative learning account.. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 288 (1949), 20210070-

Filippetti, ML., (2021). Being in Tune With Your Body: The Emergence of Interoceptive Processing Through Caregiver–Infant Feeding Interactions. Child Development Perspectives. 15 (3), 182-188

Andreu-Perez, J., Emberson, LL., Kiani, M., Filippetti, ML., Hagras, H. and Rigato, S., (2021). Explainable Artificial Intelligence Based Analysis for Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. Communications Biology. 4 (1), 1077-

Crucianelli, L. and Filippetti, ML., (2020). Developmental perspectives on interpersonal affective touch. Topoi. 39 (3), 575-586

Della Longa, L., Filippetti, ML., Dragovic, D. and Farroni, T., (2020). Synchrony of Caresses: Does Affective Touch Help Infants to Detect Body-Related Visual–Tactile Synchrony?. Frontiers in Psychology. 10, 2944-

Crucianelli, L., Wheatley, L., Filippetti, ML., Jenkinson, P., Kirk, E. and Fotopoulou, A., (2019). The Mindedness of Maternal Touch: An Investigation of Maternal Mind-Mindedness and Mother-Infant Touch Interactions. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. 35, 47-56

Filippetti, ML., Kirsch, L., Crucianelli, L. and Fotopoulou, A., (2019). Affective certainty and congruency of touch modulate the experience of the rubber hand illusion. Scientific Reports. 9 (1), 2635-

Filippetti, ML. and Crucianelli, L., (2019). If I were a grown-up: Children's response to the Rubber Hand Illusion with different hand sizes. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 185, 191-205

Orioli, G., Filippetti, ML., Gerbino, W., Dragovic, D. and Farroni, T., (2018). Trajectory Discrimination and Peripersonal Space Perception in Newborns. Infancy. 23 (2), 252-267

Filippetti, ML. and Tsakiris, M., (2018). Just before I recognize myself: the role of featural and multisensory cues leading up to explicit mirror self-recognition. Infancy. 23 (4), 577-590

Panagiotopoulou, E., Filippetti, ML., Gentsch, A. and Fotopoulou, A., (2018). Dissociable sources of erogeneity in social touch: Imagining and perceiving C-Tactile optimal touch in erogenous zones. PLoS ONE. 13 (8), e0203039-e0203039

Filippetti, ML. and Tsakiris, M., (2017). Heartfelt embodiment: Changes in body-ownership and self-identification produce distinct changes in interoceptive accuracy. Cognition. 159, 1-10

Panagiotopoulou, E., Filippetti, ML., Tsakiris, M. and Fotopoulou, A., (2017). Affective touch enhances self-face recognition during multisensory integration. Scientific Reports. 7 (1), 12883-

Filippetti, ML., Farroni, T. and Johnson, MH., (2016). Five-Month-old Infants' Discrimination of Visual-Tactile Synchronous Facial Stimulation. Infant and Child Development. 25 (3), 317-322

Filippetti, ML., Lloyd-Fox, S., Longo, MR., Farroni, T. and Johnson, MH., (2015). Neural mechanisms of body awareness in infants. Cerebral Cortex. 25 (10), 3779-3787

Filippetti, ML., (2015). What is special about our own face? Commentary: Tuning of temporo-occipital activity by frontal oscillations during virtual mirror exposure causes erroneous self-recognition. Frontiers in Psychology. 6 (OCT), 1551-

Cole, JH., Filippetti, ML., Allin, MPG., Walshe, M., Nam, KW., Gutman, BA., Murray, RM., Rifkin, L., Thompson, PM. and Nosarti, C., (2015). Subregional hippocampal morphology and psychiatric outcome in adolescents who were born very preterm and at term. PLoS ONE. 10 (6), e0130094-e0130094

Filippetti, ML., Orioli, G., Johnson, MH. and Farroni, T., (2015). Newborn Body Perception: Sensitivity to Spatial Congruency. Infancy. 20 (4), 455-465

Filippetti, ML., Johnson, MH., Lloyd-Fox, S., Dragovic, D. and Farroni, T., (2013). Body perception in newborns. Current Biology. 23 (23), 2413-2416

Conferences (1)

Kiani, M., Andreu-Perez, J., Hagras, H., Filippetti, ML. and Rigato, S., (2020). A Type-2 Fuzzy Logic Based Explainable Artificial Intelligence System for Developmental Neuroscience

Reports and Papers (1)

Kirsch, LP., Tanzer, M., Filippetti, ML., Von Mohr, M. and Fotopoulou, A., Mother knows best: Mothers are more egocentric towards their own child’s bodily emotions

Grants and funding


Public Engagement Evidence & Search Support BabyLab

University of Essex (QR Impact Fund)

Understanding the role of skin temperature in the development of bodily-self awareness

British Academy

The role of multisensory experience in the development of body representations

Economic and Social Research Council


Enhancing BabyBrains� programme with Essex Babylab research to improve parent-baby relationships

University of Essex (ESRC IAA)


Understanding the development mechanisms underlying emotional eating

Academy of Medical Sciences


Embodied vulnerability to body (dis)satisfaction in children

Experimental Psychology Society

The changing body: body representations across the lifespan

The Guarantors of Brain

+44 (0) 1206 873780


2.701, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

Please email me to book an appointment

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