Caterina Dapor

Ritratto di Caterina Dapor

Neuroscience, Technology and Society, XXXVII series
Kostantinos Priftis

Project description

My research project will be carried out within the theoretical framework of spatial cognition. The project will be focused on the mental representation of space and its interaction with other magnitudes (i.e., numbers and time), in both cognitively normal and brain-damaged individuals. Widely replicated findings have suggested a strong relation between space and both numerical and temporal domains. Indeed, spatial formats (e.g., left-to-right oriented lines) are used to mentally represent time and numbers (for reviews, see Bonato et al. 2012; Toomarian & Hubbard, 2018). These mental lines are far more than simple metaphors, as evidenced by the neuropsychological literature highlighting that visuospatial attention disorders (e.g., neglect) affect not only the perceptual space, but also the imaginative one, disrupting both the mental number line (MNL; Zorzi et al., 2002) and the mental time line (MTL; Marin et al., 2015). Despite the vast body of research on the topic, the mental spatial representation of magnitudes has been investigated mainly along one spatial dimension (i.e., the horizontal axis). Nonetheless, it has been recently proposed that numbers, together with other quantities (e.g., time, loudness, brightness), could also be represented along the vertical (down-to-up oriented) and sagittal (near-to-far oriented) axes (e.g., Aleotti et al., 2020; Winter et al., 2015). Additionally, with reference to the numerical domain, it has been shown that the representations along the three Cartesian axes (i.e., horizontal, vertical, and sagittal), when assessed in combination, can interact with each other (Aleotti et al., submitted). Taken together these results suggest the existence of a three-dimensional mental space, embodied along the three Cartesian axes. The project’s aim is to investigate the mental representation of numbers and time within the three-dimensional space (i.e., horizontal, vertical, and sagittal axes). In the present project, I will foresee the following objectives: 1) Further explore the interaction among the mental representation of numbers along the three Cartesian axes by implementing virtual reality environments that can allow me to simulate complex environments, which are potentially more ecological than the ones implemented on 2D frameworks. 2) Evaluate whether the results regarding the three-dimensional representation of numbers (Aleotti et al., 2020; Aleotti et al., submitted) would also be observed in the temporal domain. 3) Assess the three-dimensional mental representations of numbers and time in brain-damaged individuals. The results of neuropsychological studies have provided important knowledge on the spatial nature of both numerical and temporal mental representations, offering also important information regarding the dissociations that might subsist among the domains. In this respect, assessing the performance of brain-damaged individuals could offer important additional insights both on the three-dimensional mental representation of numbers and that of time as well as on the mutual interaction among axes and domains.