[Comp-neuro] PhD School at IIT - Italy

Giulio Sandini giulio.sandini at iit.it
Tue Sep 23 17:55:29 CEST 2008


The Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences (RBCS) Department of the Italian
Institute of Technology (IIT) is offering fellowships in the area of HUMAN
MOTOR LEARNING, BIOMECHANICS AND REHABILITATION ROBOTICS and BRAIN MACHINE
INTERFACE. These fellowships are part of a multidisciplinary project aiming
at 'reading' the brain to understand and extract motor signals which may be
used to control an artificial limb. 

These two main streams of research will be developed jointly at RBCS
department of IIT under the responsibility of Giulio Sandini and two groups
of scientists coordinated by Thierry Pozzo (motor learning) Luciano Fadiga
(Brain Machine Interface) and including: Lorenzo Masia, Stefano Panzeri,
Alessandro Vato, Gytis Baranauskas, Davide Ricci and Franco Bertora, Marco
Jacono. 

These projects address topics such as the design of microelectrode and
microelectronics devices for chronic in-vivo recording, electrophysiological
and brain signals recording, investigation of the coding/decoding issue,
functional identification of brain motor/premotor areas, and direct
connection to artificial actuators.

More specifically the five research themes proposed are (short abstract and
scientist in charge are included at the end of the message):

Research Stream: Human Behavior, Perception and Biomechanics
•	Theme 5.4: Psychophysical study of unimodal perception and
multimodal integration
•	Theme 5.5: Modular Control of Equilibrium and Movement
•	Theme 5.6: Neural Correlates of Biological Motion Inference
Research Stream: Brain Machine Interface
•	Theme 5.7: Machinery for functional brain analysis
•	Theme 5.8: The Neurophysiology of the Human Brain

Interested applicants should refer to one of the following website to
download instructions on how to apply and/or contact directly the scientists
in charge (below) for more information regarding the individual research
plans.
http://www.liralab.it/iit2009phd.htm 
http://www.iit.it/phd_positions 


--------------------------------------------
RESEARCH TOPICS PROPOSED

Research Stream : Human Behavior, Perception and Biomechanics

Theme 5.4: Psychophysical study of unimodal perception and multimodal
integration
Tutor: Monica Gori
N. Available positions: 1
In this project we will investigate the way in which unimodal sensory
signals are integrated in order to obtain a robust multimodal perception of
the world. As no single information-processing system can perceive optimally
under all conditions, integration of multiple sources of sensory information
makes perception more robust. Many recent studies have demonstrated the
capacity of human observers to integrate information across various senses
in a statistically optimal (sometimes termed “Bayesian”) fashion, where
greater weight is given to the sense carrying the more reliable information
under any particular condition. Importantly, performance in the multimodal
condition is always better than in either single modality. An aspect of the
integration to be studied by our research group is to investigate at what
age children start to integrate sensory signals, and if is this integration
optimal. Another aspect to be studied is how dynamic information are
integrated between different modalities, by studying the integration of
visual and tactile integration of visual and tactile flow motion. One PhD
student will be involved in psychophysical experiments of this research
theme. The aim is to study and understand how our brain produces an
integrated robust percept of the world. Backgrounds in experimental
psychology, neuroscience and basic programming skills are required.
For further details concerning the research project, please contact:
monica.gori at iit.it 

Theme 5.5: Modular Control of Equilibrium and Movement
Tutor: Prof. Thierry Pozzo
N. available positions: 1

The program of research is based on previous results obtained during a
paradigm that we developed to study both equilibrium and spatial components
of a complex multijoint goal oriented task. When subjects reach targets
positioned beyond arm length from the standing position, the central nervous
system (CNS) has to specify the spatio-temporal characteristics of the arm
movement while maintaining the whole body center of mass (CoM) within the
supporting base (the feet). A number of interesting questions arise when
considering together the control of equilibrium and arm trajectory formation
: 1) Are the control laws governing arm movements, laid down largely using
planar 2-joint tasks (and having little or no equilibrium constraints)
applicable to multijoint reaching movements (requiring a high degree of
equilibrium control and numerous DoF)? 2) How are equilibrium constraints
integrated by the CNS during the formation of a specific end-point
trajectory among a plethora of possible ones? 3) Is there a macroscopic
representation (motor primitives) at spinal and/or supraspinal level of such
components and can they be combined like building blocks to perform this
task in different conditions? 
Within this field of research, one PhD student will study the interaction of
these two components of the action by using experimental and computational
approach and modelling. A simulator based on experimental results and
optimization of iterative algorithms able to find the motor solution which,
respecting the anatomical and task constraints, minimizes a given cost
function, will be developed.  We need therefore the contribute of one PhD
students possessing basic competencies in robotic, control theory or
computational neurosciences.
For further details concerning the research project, please contact:
thierry.pozzo at iit.it

Theme 5.6: Neural Correlates of Biological Motion Inference
Tutor: Prof. Thierry Pozzo
N. available positions: 1

The spatiotemporal discontinuity of visual input (e.g., when a person
suddenly disappears behind a wall) is a common experience for human beings.
Non-human primate studies (Baker et al. 2001) demonstrated that cells in the
superior temporal sulcus (STS) contribute to the perceptual capacity for
object permanence and support the hypothesis that the motor representation
of action performed by others can be internally generated in the observer's
premotor cortex, even when a visual description of the action is lacking
(Umiltà et al. 2001). Recent behavioral experiments (Pozzo et al. 2006,
Saunier et al. 2008), suggest an implicit motor simulation during the
complete occlusion of biological motion that compensates the lack of visual
input. Little is known, however, about the neurophysiological basis of the
biological motion permanence and of the capability to predict the outcome of
others' actions. Within this field of research, one PhD student will be
involved in the development of a high density EEG system which will enable
to quantify, in humans, the involvement of action representation during the
perception of biological motion. The aim is to develop a high temporal
resolution EEG technique to better precise the functional roles played by
the STS region and by the fronto-parietal network involved in the perception
of biological motion. The student will be involved both in the recording
techniques and in the online deocoding of neural signals, which will be
perfomed with the aid advanced wavelet decomposition techniques to denoise
the signal and information theoretic techniques to reveal the most
informative components of the neural signal.  The candidate should possess
basic competencies in physicis, statistics, mathematics and computer science
and will receive interdisciplinary training by a team composed of both
experimental (Prof. Pozzo and Fadiga) and theoretical (Prof. Panzeri)
neuroscientists.
For further details concerning the research project, please contact:
thierry.pozzo at iit.it

Research Stream : Brain Machine Interface

Theme 5.7: Machinery for functional brain analysis.  
Tutor: Prof. Franco Bertora
N. of available positions: 1

There is at IIT an ongoing program to investigate the frontiers of
functional MRI imaging.  Any fMRI of the motor cortex has so far been
performed on subjects confined in a supine/prone position in the limited
volume of a traditional scanner.  There are reasons to think that the
analysis of subjects performing motor tasks in a more “natural” environment
could produce different and more meaningful results.  A study is currently
in progress for an open scanner, based on an innovative magnet design,
allowing functional brain analysis of a human adult in a standing or sitting
position.  We are looking for one PhD student with background in physics,
electronics, signal processing and MRI to participate in the design of the
magnet and its related equipment and to explore and conceive novel imaging
techniques (MRI sequences, data acquisition modalities and image
reconstruction) to be included in the development of the scanner.
For further details concerning the research project, please contact:
franco.bertora at iit.it


Theme 5.8: The Neurophysiology of the Human Brain
Tutor: Dr. Elisa Molinari
N. of available positions: 1

The Phd student will use brain mapping approaches based on functional
magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the structural and functional
organization of cortical and subcortical motor systems.
Through this project we will better understand the functional correlates of
motor planning/execution and the underlying motor circuits.
Quantitative approaches to the anatomical definition of the cortical grey
matter in healthy individuals are of specific interest. 
We are looking forward to one PhD student which should be competent in
physics, computer science and basic neuroscience.
For further details concerning the research project, please contact:
elisa.molinari at iit.it

---
Prof. Giulio Sandini
Italian Institute of Technology
Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department
Phone: +39 010 7178101 - Fax +39 010 720321 
and 
LIRA-Lab, University of Genova
Phone: +39 0103532779 - Fax: +39 010353.2948 
http://www.liralab.it 
http://sandini.liralab.it 





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