[Neuroinfo] [Jobs] PhD postitions at the Italian Institute of Technology

Alessandro D'Ausilio alessandro.dausilio at iit.it
Thu May 7 18:05:48 CEST 2015


Three PhD positions are offered at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Science Department (RBCS).

***Theme 5. Neural and motor bases of social interaction
Tutors: Prof. Thierry Pozzo, Dr. Alberto Inuggi, Dr. Alessandro D’Ausilio

***Description: While progress has been made in the field of social neuroscience, the neural mechanisms underlying social interactions represent the ‘dark matter’ of cognition. We need to study real-time social encounters in a truly interactive manner, with the assumption that cognition is fundamentally different when we interact with others rather than merely observe them passively (Schilbach et al., 2013). In the classic motor control frame of reference, individuals can be conceived as proactively building models of their action and of their sensory consequence. During interaction, these sensorimotor models can be extended to the social space whereby the control signal becomes the negotiated behavior of other people (Wolpert et al., 2003). Here, we intend to map the brain activities responsible for the emergence of such a shared behavior. Recent research has employed the hyper- scanning technique consisting in the recording of brain activities from multiple participants engaged in artificial interactive tasks (Hasson et al., 2012).
The current projects will go beyond current approaches by recording multimodal data of real face-to-face interaction between two subjects/agents recorded simultaneously. Recording will include Electroencephalographic (EEG), Electromyographic (EMG) and body motion kinematics (MoCap) data. The neural metrics of group collaboration will be extrapolated by calculating cortical connectivity indexes (Directed Transfer Function, Partial Directed Coherence), coherence factors among EEG, EMG and MoCap data and whole body movement features (Berret et al. 2009). This approach will allow the study of the neural and motor bases of social non-verbal interaction within a group of participants engaged in a collaborative realistic task.

***Requirements: The successful candidate will have a background in computer science or engineering, programming skills as well as a strong interest in cognitive neuroscience. Electroencephalographic and kinematic data analyses skills are a plus.

1. D.M. Wolpert, K. Doya, M. Kawato, A unifying computational framework for motor control and social interaction, Phil Trans Roy al Soc Lond Series B: Biol Sci 358, pp. 593–602, 2013
2. U. Hasson, A.A. Ghazanfar, B. Galantucci, S. Garrod, C. Keysers C., Brain-to-brain coupling: a mechanism for creating and sharing a social world. Trends Cognitive Sciences 16(2), pp. 114-121, 2012
3. L. Schilbach, B. Timmermans, V. Reddy, A. Costall, G. Bente, T. Schlicht, K. Vogeley Toward a second-person neuroscience, Behav Brain Sci 36, pp. 393-414, 2013
4. B. Berret, F. Bonnetblanc, C. Papaxanthis, T. Pozzo, Modular control of pointing beyond arm’s length, Journal of Neuroscience, 29, pp. 191-205, 2009

***Contacts: thierry.pozzo at iit.it ; alberto.inuggi at iit.it ; alessandro.dausilio at iit.it


***Theme 7. Augmented sensorimotor interaction
***Tutors: Dr. Alessandro D’Ausilio, Dr. Leonardo Badino, Prof. Luciano Fadiga Department: RBCS 

***Description: The project starts from the assumption that human cultural and moral evolution can only be based on the development of efficient cooperation, and coherence among people. In fact, human perception, action and cognition are geared to enable successful coordination with others. The MNIlab devises computational methods to quantify the information flow between human body movements in small group of participants (Badino et al. 2014). In fact, body movement is the key channel for non-verbal communication (D’Ausilio et al., 2015). The successful candidate will work on the extension and consolidation of this methodology to different scenarios (i.e. small group behavior during meetings or sport activities) and the development of the analytical tools to extract in real-time the quantitative flow of sensorimotor communication (Granger Causality, Transfer Entropy, Cross-Recurrence Quantification Analysis). The research program will be complemented by basic motor neurophysiological research on behavioral coordination (D’Ausilio et al., 2015).
All these aspects will be critical to implement the next generation of biologically inspired automatic sensorimotor communication recognition systems. These automatic systems will be essential to augment natural human-human coordination and promote the future of efficient human-robot interaction.

***Requirements: The successful candidate will have a background in computer science, engineering, computational neuroscience or experimental psychology. Programming skills as well as a strong motivation in bridging the gap between technology and neuroscience are necessary. Kinematic data analyses skills are a plus.

1. L. Badino, A. D’Ausilio, D. Glowinski, A. Camurri, L. Fadiga, Sensorimotor communication in professional quartets, Neuropsychologia, 55(1), pp. 98-104, 2014
2. A. D’Ausilio, G. Novembre, L. Fadiga, P.E. Keller, What can music tell us about social interaction?, Trends Cognitive Sciences, 19(3), pp. 111-114, 2015
3. A. D'Ausilio, E. Bartoli, L. Maffongelli L., Grasping Synergies: A motor-control approach to the mirror neuron mechanism, Phys Life Rev. 12, pp. 91-103, 2015

***Contacts: alessandro.dausilio at iit.it; leonardo.badino at iit.it; luciano.fadiga at iit.it


***Theme 9. Speaking in Concert
***Tutors: Prof. Luciano Fadiga, Dr. Leonardo Badino, Dr. Alessandro D’Ausilio Department: RBCS 

***Description: While it is now undisputed that speakers engaged in a conversational interaction are perceived by external listeners as converging towards each other in how they speak, we do not know yet what exactly in their speech makes them sound more similar to each other. Both perceptual tests and detailed acoustic analyses have shown their limits, the former because they have failed to reveal along which acoustic/phonetic parameters convergence may occur between speakers, and the latter because we may not have looked at the right acoustic/phonetic parameters yet. In addition, little is known about the cerebral underpinnings of phonetic convergence in speech. The goal of this project is to better understand what makes speakers sound more like each other in a conversational interaction. We will achieve this by means of a set of simultaneous recordings at the neural, articulatory and acoustic levels, in order to identify the neural features that may control and modulate the articulatory movements that in turn are at the origin of convergence in speech. Another major issue will be to determine whether convergence is symmetrical or asymmetrical, i.e. whether one partner converges to a greater extent towards the other partner than the reverse. To address this issue, we will conduct a series of analyses based on methods such as Granger Causality and Transfer Entropy, which have already been successfully employed in studies on sensorimotor convergence (D’Ausilio et al., 2012).

***Requirements: A degree in Computer Science, Engineering or equivalent, with interests in Neuroscience. A background in speech processing, statistical analysis and machine learning will be appreciated.

A. D'Ausilio, L. Badino, L. Yi, S. Tokay, L. Craighero, R. Canto, Y. Aloimonos, L. Fadiga, Leadership in Orchestra Emerges from the Causal Relationships of Movement Kinematics. PLoS ONE 7(5)

***Contacts: leonardo.badino at iit.it , alessandro.dausilio at iit.it, luciano.fadiga at iit.it


*** How to apply

Please note that the positions are available through the PhD course of BIOENGINEERING AND ROBOTICS, Curriculum Cognitive robotics, interaction and rehabilitation technologies, offered jointly by IIT and the University of Genoa. The official call and application forms are available on the website of the University of Genoa.

The official calls are available here:
[ENG] http://www.iit.it/en/openings/phd-calls.html
[ENG] http://www.iit.it/images/phd-xxxi/RES.THEMES.COGNIROB.INTER.pdf
[ITA] http://www.studenti.unige.it/postlaurea/dottorati/XXXI/IT

Applications must be submitted online, instructions for applicants are available here:
[ENG] http://phd.dibris.unige.it/biorob/index.php/how-to-apply

Applications are considered for the subsequent selection ONLY if received ELECTRONICALLY through the UNIVERSITY of GENOA's website by the deadline.

*Application deadline: 10 June 2015, 12pm Italian time

***Applicants are strongly encouraged to get in touch the contact person(s) for the individual themes.

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