Since my training as a scientist began, my research interests have focused on the organization, functioning and plasticity of the brain across the life span. By studying children and adults with typical development or after experiencing a diverging sensory trajectory (e.g., permanent sensory deprivation as blindness and deafness, delayed sensory onset, central damage) and the effects of training, I have been interested in exploring how the experience, in different phases of life, shapes the brain. All these approaches rely on the understanding of sensory and cognitive systems development and functioning in a multisensory framework.
The research I conduct is at the interface between cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and psicobiology applying multiple methods such as electrical neuroimaging (EEG), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), psychophysics, machine learning approaches, computational neuroscience, to elucidate the complex dynamics between the brain and the environment.
Some examples of our work:
- The development of certain visual functions depends on the availability of visual input in the early phases of life (e.g. face processing system Roeder et al., 2013 PNAS; Motion processing Bottari et al., 2018 Neuroimage; extrastriate cortices processing Sourav et al., 2018 Journal of Vision; Sourav et al., 2020 EClinical Medicine-The Lancet).
- Conversely, we showed that other visual functions do not require early visual input to develop, possibly indicating that they are genetically predetermined (e.g., biological motion processing, Bottari et al., 2015 Cortex; Rajendran et al., 2020 eNeuro; color processing Pitchaimuthu et al., 2020 Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience; retinotopical mapping of primary visual cortex Sourav et al., 2018 Journal of Vision and 2020 EClinincal Medicine-The Lancet).
- We showed that the lack of a sense impacts the representations and functioning of the other senses (e.g., auditory motion processing is influenced by a period of visual deprivation in the early phases of development (Bottari et al., 2018, Neuroimage); In Berto et al., 2021 (iScience) we employed a computational auditory model and psychophysics to measure the impact of permanent blindness (either congenital or with a late onset) on auditory computations.
- We recently unraveled that the Superior Temporal Sulcus has a core area which does not require audiovisual experience to extract correlations across visual and auditory input (Setti et al., 2023 Nature Human Behavior).
- We showed that the auditory cortex of congenitally deaf individuals responds to visual motion processing, indicating crossmodal plasticity (Bottari et al., 2014, Neuroimage).