History of ISTC
The Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies was created in 2001, resulting from two convergent trends. National Research Council (CNR) was undergoing a restructuring process aimed to reduce the number of its Institutes, while the Institute of Psychology (IP) was consistently modifying its research activity. To IP, the main precursor of ISTC, were added the Institute of Phonetics and Dialectology (IFD) of Padua and groups from other Institutes (Institute of Biomedical Technologies of Rome, LADSEB of Padua and the Solid State Electronics group in Rome).
The IP engagement in the research on information technology had become increasingly relevant under the direction of Domenico Parisi (1987-1995): from Computational Methodologies in the Study of Language to New Technologies; from Artificial Intelligence and Computer Simulation to Neural Networks, Artificial Life and Robotics.
The interdisciplinary orientation, which allowed the IP to play a pioneer role in a number of research fields later incorporated in academic research and teaching, was pursued by the following directors, Sebastiano Bagnara (1996-1998) and Virginia Volterra (1998-2002).
At the end of the 90s, the research areas spanned from the study of Cognitive Social Systems and Multi-Agent Systems to the Quality of Child Care both in educational settings and within the family; from Genetic Counselling to the study of Lexical and Syntactic Processes; from the study of Artificial Neural Systems in an Artificial Life perspective to linguistic development in typical and atypical conditions; from the interactions between New Technologies and Human Cognitive Capacities and Processes, to describing and evaluating the cognitive capacities and their development in non-human primate species.
The label of Psychology appeared too restricted for such a wide array of topic being investigated. As a consequence, in 2001, seizing the opportunity of the CNR ongoing process of restructuring, the Institute changed name in Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies.
Virginia Volterra, first Director of ISTC, steered the transition. Between 2001 and 2003 groups from other Institutes (Institute of Biomedical Technologies of Rome, LADSEB of Padua and the Solid State Electronics group in Rome) became part of ISTC.
The new Director, Cristiano Castelfranchi (2002-2011), emphasized the interdisciplinary approach of the Institute, favoring research in new technologies and the engagement of many young researchers in the Institute on the more innovative topics.
In 2011 Rino (Rosario) Falcone took over the direction of ISTC from Castelfranchi, continuing his action in favoring more innovative research and entrusting more responsibilities to many young ISTC researchers. Falcone reorganized ISTC research activities along three macro areas. The aim of this reorganization was a more effective understanding and streamlining of the research activities ISTC is involved on:
- Cognitive Models and Technologies (cognitive and socio-cognitive models and technologies in robotics, artificial intelligence, semantic technologies, social simulation);
- Psychology of Cognitive Processes (cognitive processes in scientific areas related to the psychology of development, of communication and social interactions);
- Biological Models of Cognition (study, and in some cases computational simulation, of the Biological Models that refer to cognition and also includes problems of non-invasive Translational Neuroscience, analysis of neurophysiological mechanisms as well as specific techniques of investigation of neurodegenerative diseases).
Of course, several cross-cutting links exist among different areas: outlined scheme is not exhaustive of possible interconnections and is not hindering the emergence of new research topics within ISTC.
History of the Institute of Psychology
The Institute of Psychology was created in 1950, resulting from the transformation of a previously existing Centre for the Study of Psychology, which was mainly dedicated to psychological testing for the Army. Most of the studies carried out in the Institute concerned experimental psychology, psychophysiology, and intelligence and personality testing and only at the end of the 60s basic research in psychophysiology, ergonomics, and linguistics was undertaken.
Over the 70s, under the direction of Raffaello Misiti (1969-1986) the research staff was doubled, applied activities (such as testing for the Army) were dismissed, basic research initiatives were enhanced – starting with linguistics - and new research directions were opened, such as cognitive and language development and comparative psychology. In the same years, the Institute carried out innovative studies in many areas of social relevance, such as education, treatment of psychiatric disorders, man-environment relationships, work condition and information technology. The Institute played an important role in the cultural debate on psychology and its new trends, contributing to the diffusion and discussion of cognitivism and Soviet sociocultural psychology in Italy.
The interdisciplinary orientation of the Institute was officially sanctioned by posing it under three CNR Consulting Committees: "Historical sciences, philosophy and philology" and "Economics, sociology and statistics”, in addition to the existing Committee of "Biological and medical sciences". For many years, the Institute was the only CNR Institution with such a status.
While the Institute continued to produce significant research in socially relevant fields, in particular in early childhood education and health psychology, during the following two decades more specific interests of different research groups emerged. In 1984 a colony of tufted capuchin monkeys (at that time Cebus apella, now Sapajus sp, ), living in social groups, was hosted by the comparative psychology group at the Zoo of Rome (now Bioparco); linguistics evolved toward many different lines : early stages of language acquisition, neuropsychology of language, with the study of normal and pathological development, the study of the sign languages of the deaf (since 1988 a unit of the Institute is hosted at the Institute for the Deafmute - now ISSR - in Via Nomentana); studies in environmental psychology focused on the built environment. Research in information technology, in particular under the direction of Domenico Parisi (1987-1995) became increasingly relevant: from the computational methodologies in the study of language to the new technologies; from artificial intelligence and computer simulation to neural networks, artificial life, and robotics.
The interdisciplinary orientation, which allowed the Institute to play a pioneer role in a number of research fields that have later been incorporated also in academic research and teaching, was pursued also by the next directors, Sebastiano Bagnara (1995-1998) and Virginia Volterra (1998-2002). In addition, under the direction of Virginia Volterra the role of the Institute as a training institution was strengthened, and an increasing number of doctoral students had the opportunity to conduct their thesis tutored by IP researchers.
At the end of the 90’s, the research areas spanned from the study of cognitive social systems and of multi-agent interactive systems to the quality of child care both in educational settings and within the family; from genetic counselling to the study of lexical and syntactic processes; from the study of artificial neural systems in an Artificial Life perspective to linguistic development in typical and atypical conditions; from the interactions between new technologies and human cognitive capacities and processes, to describing and evaluating the cognitive capacities and their development in non-human primate species.
The label of Psychology appeared too restricted for such a wide array of topic being investigated, and as a consequence, in 2001, seizing the opportunity of the on-going process of restructuring of the CNR research institutes, the Institute changed name in Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies.
History of Magnetoencelography Unit in Fatebenefratelli Hospital - Rome
The Magnetoencephalograpy (MEG) Unit is the result of some researchers branching from the Institute for Photonics and Nanotechnologies (Istituto di Fotonica e Nanotecnologie - IFN), another CNR institute derived from the merging of other CNR institutes.
It is located in Fatebenefratelli Hospital and its focus is on neurophysiological characterization of the central nervous system activity, focusing on sensory-motor cortex in normal and pathological conditions.
History of Institute of Phonetics and Dialectology
The Paduan Section of the ISTC was established when the Psychology Institute of Rome and the Phonetic and Dialectology Institute of Padua (IFD - Istituto di Fonetica e Dialettologia) merged together. This took place on 5th February 2002. The IFD became active on 1st June 1998, through a merge between two pre-existing Centers, the Center for the Study of Phonetic Research (CSRF) and the Center for the Study of Italian Dialectology "Oronzo Parlangeli" (CSDI). Both of these were founded by Carlo Tagliavini, the well-known professor of Glottology at University of Padua, in early seventies and were based on an agreement between the University of Padua and CNR at the Institute of Glottology and Phonetics.
The CSRF was directed by Prof. Lucio Croatto from 1971 to 1991 and by Prof. Alberto Zamboni from 1991 to 1998. It was characterized by the experimental setting up of phonetic research (which involved the establishment of a Laboratory that, because of the abundance and regular updating of the instrumentation, became a point of reference for all researchers in this sector for Italy) and by an interdisciplinary approach totally innovative for Italy that lead to the establishment of a team made up of linguists, acoustic physicists, computer engineers, speech therapists and psychologists, thanks to which the CSRF gained national and international publicity.
The CSDI, directed by Prof. Manlio Cortelazzo from 1973 to 1987, by Prof. Giovan Battista Pellegrini from 1987 to 1992 and by Prof. Alberto Mioni from 1992 to 1998, became the center of a series of research distributed all over the territory but organized in a unitary way with the scope of putting together a data base of Italian dialects at all levels: lexical, syntactical, phonological and phonetic, thanks to which elaboration on very important analyses have been carried out. Furthermore, the publication of a series of monographs regarding dialects and varieties of Italian of great cultural importance, which can also be utilized in interlinguistic research and educational centers, was entrusted to the CSDI.
These lines of research were confirmed at the time of the merging in 1998 of CSDI and CSRF into IFD, directed by Prof. Alberto Zamboni from 1998 to 2002, which then became a highly specialized Institute in the field of Speech Communication and in the study of language variation.
The subsequent confluence into ISTC was decided on the basis of the firm belief that research into theoretical, experimental and technological speech would associate perfectly with the cognitive and psycholinguistic research on various aspects of communication carried out by researchers of the IP (cognitive development and learning in children, artificial intelligence, neural network).
History of LADSEB (Institute for Systems Science and Biomedical Engineering)
This institute (now incorporated in ISIB-CNR) was founded in 1973 and included people working on biomedical models, medical informatics, systems science, robotics, and knowledge representation. In the latter field, a research line on "Conceptual Modeling and Knowledge Engineering" has been active since 1991.
Under the leadership of Nicola Guarino, this group gained an international reputation for its interdisciplinary approach focused on the role of philosophical ontology in the foundations of knowledge representation, information integration and retrieval, natural language processing, multi-agent systems, and information systems design.
Then, in 2003, the "Conceptual Modeling and Knowledge Engineering" group joined ISTC, moving to Trento and merging with a similar group at former ITBM-CNR to form the Laboratory for Applied Ontology.