PhD. Daniel-Robert Chebat
My research focuses on sensory substitution, mechanisms of neural adaptation and plasticity. Sensory substitution devices are capable of transmitting visual information for people who are blind. Brain plasticity is a phenomenon that typically happens when people learn to use these devices. In the context of my research I have tested several different sensory substitution devices in a variety of contexts and spatial tasks, such as obstacle detection and negotiation, object recognition and spatial localization, visual acuity, maze learning and virtual navigation. Using fMRI, my research has highlighted the recruitment of a similar navigation network in people who are congenitally blind, as well as demonstrated volumetric differences between sighted and congenitally blind individuals in terms of this network. My laboratory at Ariel University (The Visual and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory -VCN Lab) works on brain plasticity linked to different kinds of perceptual learning. We work also on the role of visual experience in shaping the neural networks involved in navigation. Our research is focused on the following specific five issues:
- What happens to the regions typically involved in navigation in sighted people when humans are deprived of vision from birth?
- Do the regions involved in navigation only process visual input, or are hey sensory modality independent?
- Can we improve vision in sighted people through training?
- Will this improvement lead to neural changes ?
- Can we use sensory substitution to augment our senses?