Università di Milano-Bicocca, IT
Since 2008 Zaira Cattaneo has a permanent position as a researcher (assistant professor) in neuroscience at the University of Milano-Bicocca (Italy). ZC’s work focuses on the investigation of the neural correlates of perceptual and cognitive functions mainly using brain stimulation techniques. Great part of her research has been devoted to the study of cognitive functioning in visually impaired individuals.Her research on this topic has been funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs within the Executive programme of Italy-US cooperation in the field of science and technology. Z.C. obtained her Ph.D. in Psychology (2006) at the University of Pavia, where she held afterwards a three years post-doc research position. During these years, she spent several months at the Helmholtz Institute in Utrecht University, at the University of Rochester (US), and at Harvard Medical School (US). In 2012, for her promising research, she received a FIRB grant (Basic research investment fund) funded by the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR).
My aim in this presentation is to review a selection of findings from our research describing cognitive functioning in individuals with congenital and acquired visual impairment including profound blindness, low-vision, and monocular vision. Overall, our findings suggest that the nature of perceptual input on which we commonly rely strongly affects the organization of our mental processes. Critically, our data suggest that visually impaired individuals often employ different cognitive mechanisms than sighted individuals, suggesting that compensatory mechanisms can overcome the limitations of sight loss. Taken together, our findings suggest that blindness is not necessarily a “less” of a condition, but rather should be properly considered as an “altered” condition. Possible implications for education and training of blind individuals will be also be discussed.