Giulia Cappagli was born in La Spezia (Italy) in 1987. She studied Experimental Psychology and received her Master of Science in Psychology from the University of Florence in Italy (2012 - Prof. David Burr). She became licensed Psychologist after one year of formal traineeship spent both at the University College London UCL in London, United Kingdom (Centre for Research in Autism and Education – Prof. Elizabeth Pellicano) and at the Institute of Neuroscience INS in Florence, Italy (Prof. Stefano Pallanti and Roberto di Rubbo). She obtained a Ph.D. in Bioengineers and Robotics from the University of Genoa affiliated with the Italian Institute of Technology (2014 – Prof. Giulio Sandini and Monica Gori).
Currently, Giulia works in the RBCS (Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences) Department and she is involved in the European project ABBI (Audio Bracelet for Blind Interactions). The project aims to assess spatial perception in children and adults with visual impairments and to rehabilitate the impaired aspects of spatial perception by developing an audio bracelet that provides auditory feedback of body movements. For more info, please visit the website ( https://www.abbiproject.eu/ ) or email the collaborators.
Her research interests cover a range of topics related to assessment and rehabilitation of spatial perception in visually impaired individuals, time perception in specific population such as musicians and autistic individuals, music therapy for developmental diseases. She was awarded a diploma with top marks in Music (Saxophone) from the Conservatory of La Spezia and a diploma in Music Therapy funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).
Autism is a developmental disorder that affect the way in which an individual interacts and communicates with others, but also perceives environmental stimuli.
Research suggests that autistic people view and interpret and the world around them differently from non-autistic people. Recently it has been suggested that autistic people perceive the world as it "really is" rather than as imbued by prior experiences, which could help explain the range and idiosyncrasy of sensory sensitivities and their difficulties dealing with new experiences (Pellicano & Burr, 2012).
In this project, we will investigate this possibility by comparing the perceptual functions of children with autism and typically developing children using innovative experimental techniques. In collaboration with the PisaVisionLab in Pisa (Italy) the team has developed a series of fun computer games, aiming to tap some of the perceptual experiences in autism. We will see whether the perceptual experiences of children with autism are less "adaptable" than children without autism. We also want to know whether these differences occur generally throughout the brain or whether they might be specific to processing only certain types of sensory information. Furthermore, we will use powerful forms of computer (Bayesian) modelling, which should be of great assistance in pinpointing precisely which psychological processes might be different in autism.
The development of technologies to support the inclusion of adults and children with visual disabilities is a big societal challenges for ICT Research. Vision is essential to build up important cognitive representations and early onset of blindness affects adversely psychomotor, spatial and social development. Moreover, early intervention is fundamental.
The ABBI project aims at:
• Developing a new set of devices to rehabilitate spatial cognition, mobility and social interaction of children and adults with visual deficits through natural audio-motor and tactile-motor associations,
• demonstrating and validating the technology through user, experimental and clinical studies.
The core idea of the project, based on a new understanding of the role of vision in the development of blind and normal children, is that audio feedback about body movements might help the blind child to build a sense of space. The main device to achieve this objective is the Audio Bracelet for Blind Interactions (ABBI) which will be positioned on the wrist of the child and/or of the people around. The generated sound (for which the position will be perceived aurally) will be triggered by the body movement and will give spatial information on where and how the movement is occurring. The use of ABBI will provide important information for posture control, motor coordination and spatial orientation reducing the risk of exclusion for disabled individuals.
Why it is innovative
Unlike most existing sensory substitution devices that are introduced in late childhood or adulthood, the approach proposed in ABBI does not require to learn new “languages” and it can be applied in the first years of life. Further development of the ABBI in this project will endow the device with the capacity to interact with other ABBIs and react in a smart manner to the context as well as additional assistive functions.
Partners: Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, University of Hamburg, University of Glasgow, University of Lund, Istituto David Chiossone
Peer-review articles in conferences
Conferences – Poster presentations
Conferences – Talk presentations