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PhD Program in Cognitive and Cultural Systems

PhD Program in Cognitive and Cultural Systems

PhD Coordinator: Maria Luisa Catoni


PhD Program Overview

The Doctoral Program in Cognitive and Cultural Systems mainly includes the ERC sectors of the Social Sciences and Humanities area, with significant and carefully selected grafts of disciplines and methodologies belonging to the Life Sciences area and the Sciences and Engineering area. The accurate balance of disciplines in the Doctoral Program Cognitive and Cultural Systems responds to the need to train researchers and professionals as to both equip them with the methodological tools necessary to address the complexity that characterizes the problems posed by contemporary societies and develop their ability to innovate in terms of questions asked, analyses carried out and solutions found.

The Program focuses on systems in which the human component is predominant, but pays great attention to the increasingly fluid, dynamic and nuanced border areas between human and artificial systems. In methodological terms, graduate students are provided with the widest, most innovative and up-to-date range of methodologies, tools and techniques for analysis and management, even from disciplines far removed from traditional reference ones. This means that students are trained to innovate with regard to the research topics selected and the type of questions asked, the methodologies and techniques of analysis adopted and the solutions developed.

The human systems on which the Program focuses range from individual contexts to social contexts, analysed in different dimensions and levels of relevance (neurophysiological, cognitive, psychological, linguistic, perceptive, historical, cultural, institutional, political, economic, managerial, technological, territorial, global). The Program provides students with both disciplinary and interdisciplinary tools and methodologies and is strongly aimed at interdisciplinary methodological and applicative innovation. To this end, it is particularly relevant the collaboration, at both teaching and research level, with the Doctoral Program in Systems Science, specifically focused on artificial systems.  The Doctorate in Cognitive and Cultural Systems consists of two tracks and, in the spirit of the School, integrates disciplinary excellence with interdisciplinary vocation: 

The Cognitive, Computational and Social Neurosciences track integrates basic neuroscientific training with the ability to study mental activities and cognitive functions in the neurobiological, psychophysiological, social, psycholinguistic, computational, social, philosophical, logical and educational fields, also providing a significant experimental and analytical methodological training on neuroimaging. 

The track Analysis and Management of Cultural Heritage, alongside the consolidation and development of the traditional methodologies used in the fields related to Cultural Heritage, proposes, on the one hand, the interdisciplinary expansion of the range of methodologies and tools for the analysis of past and present cultural phenomena, processes, productions and heritage; on the other hand, the track proposes a grafting, on these disciplines, of management and organizational skills and tools, also oriented by innovative methodologies. Furthermore the track includes selected innovation-oriented and interdisciplinary methodologies and tools to be integrated with the traditional methods and tools for the analysis and management of cultural heritage as well as the analysis of historical phenomena and processes (such as Neuro- and Cognitive Science methodologies, IT methodologies and Artificial Intelligence applied to the analysis, fruition, enhancement and management of Cultural Heritage and cultural processes, Data Analytics, Machine learning, Networks Theory, Tools for impact analysis and evaluation, Digital Humanities). 

The two tracks are therefore defined on the basis of the methodologies applicable to the study, on the one hand, of the brain, mind and behaviour and, on the other hand, of the cultural productions and the practices, functions, institutions, ideologies and representations they generate and by which they are influenced/determined at the social and individual level. The two tracks thus define both a common field of observation, that of human productions and practices in their perceptive, cultural, material, symbolic, economic, political, managerial, institutional dimensions and an innovative intersection between different and complementary methodological, analytical and technical lenses. The strongly interdisciplinary nature of the Program is further reinforced by the methodological intersections with the Systems Science Program present at  IMT School.

The educational offer of the Program includes topics such as conceptual representation in its neurobiological and cultural dimensions; the study of the modalities of perception of and interaction with the external world; the characterization of the role of sensory experience and the state of consciousness in the representation of the external world; the integration of conceptual analyses, formal methods and results of the psychology of reasoning into the study of cognitive and social sciences; the contextual, comparative and multidisciplinary study of the processes of production and use of artefacts, images and spaces within defined historical, social, cultural, symbolic, ideological, political, economic, institutional and legal contexts; the study of the reception, mediation and circulation of objects, practices and representations from a historical, cultural and perceptual point of view; the historical, contextual and comparative study of the relationship between reality and "unreality"; the historical, comparative and contextual study of media and mediality; the contextual and comparative  study of cultural heritage in its multiple dimensions; cultural heritage Law and comparative analysis of forms of cultural heritage administration, institutionalization and management; the study of institution building through cultural heritage and its role as an instrument of cultural diplomacy. These are, as is well known, relevant issues in a long-term and very topical perspective.

The educational objective of the Doctoral Program in Cognitive and Cultural Systems is to provide students with mastery of advanced theoretical, methodological and technical tools for neuroscience and for the analysis and management of cultural heritage, cultural phenomena and their multiple impacts.  

In addition to training  and supervising students in the disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields of neuroscience and cultural heritage, the Program provides them with innovative and interdisciplinary methods and tools for the analysis and management of both traditional and frontier phenomena, at the intersection between the two tracks and between these and some areas of the Doctoral Program Systems Science, such as theoretical, methodological and technical tools for the study of the relationship between historical, comparative and contextual analysis (including spatial analysis), behavioural and neurobiological analysis and analysis of the complex system constituted by human behaviours, practices, activities and productions (including technological innovations). The frontier areas at the intersection between the two tracks and the two PhD Programs may include, for example: the historical, contextual and comparative study of material and immaterial cultural productions, their uses, reuses as well as material and symbolic functions (including "difficult heritage"); the analysis of the multiple dimensions and functions, physical and symbolic, of material and immaterial cultural heritage; the relationship between cultural heritage and cultural institutions; the relations between arts and sciences and between arts and technologies in different historical and cultural contexts; the historical, comparative and contextual analysis of the relationship between physical and virtual reality; the historical, comparative and contextual study of media and mediality; the relationship between reality and "unreality" in a historical, philosophical and comparative perspective;  production, perceptions and uses of physical and virtual spaces, at the individual and social, territorial and global, material and symbolic level; the analysis of the legal and institutional forms, practices and cultures related to the analysis and management of cultural heritage; the relations between archaeology, art history, visual studies, history of reception, history of perception and recent acquisitions of neuroscience and cognitive sciences; development, application and integration of innovative methodologies for the analysis of cultural productions and processes of the present and the past, as well as for the analysis, fruition, enhancement and management of cultural heritage and related practices (Neuroscience, Cognitive Sciences, IT tools and methodologies, Artificial Intelligence, Networks theory, Impact analysis tools, Data analytics, Machine learning, Digital Humanities); development and application of qualitative-quantitative evaluation tools for the impacts of creative productions, cultural activities and cultural heritage; tools for the evaluation of intangible resources; the role of multisensory perception and emotional-affective response in artistic elaboration and aesthetic evaluation; development of advanced methodologies for the analysis of neurobiological correlates (IT tools and methodologies, Networks theory, Data analysis, Machine learning); interaction between neuroscience and artificial intelligence in the study of reasoning and acquisition of knowledge, communication and interaction; dialogue between psychophysiology, psychometrics, bionics, information engineering; integration of conceptual analysis, formal methods (probability, decision, game theory) and results of the psychology of reasoning into the study of cognitive and social sciences; categorization and conceptual representation and role of the different sensory modes; cognitive and neurofunctional aspects of creative thinking, decision-making processes or behaviour the role of psychological processes and neurobiological correlates in the study of socio-economic systems;

In addition to the courses provided in the relevant tracks, students are exposed to seminars, conferences, project activities of both specialist and cross-disciplinary type; students also participate in field experience and off-site lectures at close contact with the objects and their institutional and management setting.


Scientific Board

  • Prof. Maria Luisa Catoni (Full Professor of Ancient Art History and Archaeology, IMT School)
  • Prof. Giulio Bernardi (Assistant Professor in General Psychology, IMT School)
  • Prof. Linda Bertelli (Assistant Professor in Visual Studies of Science, IMT School)
  • Prof. Amos Bertolacci (Full Professor of History of Mediaeval Philosophy, IMT School)
  • Prof. Ruth Bielfeldt (Professor of Classical Archaeology, LMU München)
  • Prof. Ennio Bilancini (Full Professor of Political Economy, IMT School)
  • Dr. Luca Cecchetti (Assistant Professor in General Psychology, IMT School)
  • Prof. Gustavo Cevolani (Associate Professor in Logic and Philosophy of Science, IMT School)
  • Prof. Chiara Cirelli (Professor of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin)
  • Prof. Irene Crimaldi (Associate Professor of Statistics, IMT School)
  • Prof. Rocco De Nicola (Full Professor of Computer Science, IMT School)
  • Prof. Chiara Franceschini (Professor of Early Modern Art History, LMU München)
  • Dr. Andrea Magliari (Assistant Professor in Administrative Law, IMT School)
  • Prof. Andrea Mechelli (Professor of  Early Intervention in Mental Health, King's College London)
  • Prof. Peter Neri (Professor of Biological Sciences, École Normale Supérieure, Paris)
  • Dr. Riccardo Olivito (Assistant Professor in Classical Archaeology, IMT School)
  • Prof. Emanuele Pellegrini (Associate Professor of Art History, IMT School)
  • Prof. Pietro Pietrini (Full Professor of Clinical Bichemistry and Molecular Biology, IMT School)
  • Dr. Alessandro Poggio (Assistant Professor in Classical Archaeology, IMT School)
  • Prof. Giulia Puma (Maîtresse de conférences, CNRS Nice)
  • Prof. Massimo Riccaboni (Full Professor of Economics and Management, IMT School)
  • Prof. Emiliano Ricciardi (Associate Professor in Psychobiology and Psychophysiology, IMT School)
  • Prof. Mirco Tribastone (Full Professor of Computer Science, IMT School)