In sensory substitution devices (SSDs), visual information captured by an artificial receptor is delivered to the brain using non-visual information via a human-machine interface. SSDs have the potential to play a major role in the adaptation to blindness. The first aim of this proposal will be to develop better training and behavioral paradigm to improve the use of SSDs for object recognition and localization (see Amedi et al. Nature Neuroscience 2007). SSDs can also prove extremely useful in serving as a unique tool to study human cognition by studying the neural correlated associated the use of sensory substitution for various cognitive functions using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) (see Amedi et al. 2007). Combining fMRI with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) can help adding relevant causally and chronometry information. Both methodologies will play an important part achieving this central aim of the proposal targeting open issues in object recognition, object localization, sensory perception, cross-modal interactions and brain plasticity. Finally, SSDs can also play a potential role in ‘guiding’ the visual cortex to ‘read’ and interpret the visual information arriving from a retinal prosthesis in the blind as we have recently suggested (Merabet et. al 2005). This preliminary line of work will be conducted together with Harvard’s center for non-invasive brain stimulation in US (my post-doc hub). Taken together this proposal also closely matches the two main objectives of the Commission as presented in the Marie Curie reintegration action: 1. in “reversing the effects of the European brain drain to third countries”. 2. In the development of lasting co-operation with the scientific environment of a third country. To conclude the proposal have both crucial basic research outcomes and potential rehabilitation outcomes with practical significance for the quality of life blind people worldwide.
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