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Elisa Raffaella Ferrè

Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London

I am an Experimental Psychologist and Cognitive Neuroscientist.

The main focus of my research is to empirically identify the contribution of the vestibular system to human cognition. The vestibular system originates with a sophisticated set of sensory transducer organs in the inner ear. It comprises three orthogonal semicircular canals that sense rotational acceleration of the head in three-dimensional space, and two otolith organs (the utricle and saccule) that jointly sense translational acceleration, including the orientation of the head relative to gravity. Traditionally, vestibular information has been considered an essential cue for low-level reflex behaviours, such as eye movement control, postural control, balance and orientation. However, the vestibular inputs turn out to be involved in almost all our interactions with the external world in ways that go far beyond these reflexes. My work has demonstrated that vestibular signals are crucial for a surprising range of cognitive functions, from sensorimotor control to the highest levels of perception and consciousness.

My research extends to the space sector, investigating the role played by vestibular/gravitational signals in human behaviour. I combine experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, neuroimaging, vestibular physiology and space science methods to understand how gravity shapes behaviour and, in a more forward-looking way, how non-terrestrial gravities may impact cognition and performance during spaceflight.

My work is supported by project grants from the UK British Academy, UK Royal Society, UK Meniere's Society, Japan National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, BIAL Foundation, European Low Gravity Research Association and European Space Agency.

I am Deputy Coordinator of the UK Space Life and Biomedical Sciences Association (UK SpaceLABS) and Secretary of the European Low Gravity Research Association (ELGRA).


  • 2021–present
    Senior lecturer, Birkbeck University of London