#12 Color is Blind: An interview with Prof Alfonso Caramazza, Harvard´s Daniel and Amy Starch Professor of Psychology

Formed by trillions of photons produced by fractions of seconds by the sun, light travels through the atmosphere destined either for collision or if lucky, an encounter with the retina. There, millions of red, green, and blue sensing -cones will dress her in colors while they open the doors to the human brain. But what about freedom or love? concepts whose silhouette cannot be discerned by the sense of sight? And what happens when we are given reference by what our eyes can see but nevertheless color concepts keep unfolding in infinite layers, each with a meaning of its own? How is it possible for born blind people to “see” color? What is Cognitive Neuropsychology? And what is it for? Meet our closing episode’s star scientist, Alfonso Caramazza, Daniel and Amy Starch Professor of Psychology and Director of the Cognitive Neuropsychology Lab at Harvard University’s Department of Psychology.

Dare to jump in a fascinating journey inside the human brain. Prof. Caramazza will guide us as a soft light- lantern through a universe of flexible living pathways of hills and valleys connected by nudges of sensorial and intellectual experiences. Echoing its way with vibrant impulse, hiding blindfolded between labyrinthine walls, Color awaits to be discovered.

Profile Alfonso Caramazza: https://psychology.fas.harvard.edu/people/alfonso-caramazza


Cognitive Neuropsychology Laboratory: https://cogneuro.psychology.fas.harvard.edu

Profile Alfonso Caramazza (Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative): https://mbb.harvard.edu/people/alfonso-caramazza-0

Alfonso Caramazza on Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=hvvrK8cAAAAJ&hl=en


He is Daniel and Amy Starch Professor of Psychology, at the Department of Psychology, Director of the Cognitive Neuropsychology Laboratory, and Director of the Mind/Brain/Behavior Interfaculty Initiative at Harvard University, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1995. He was also founding Director (2007-2012) of the Center of Mind/Brain Sciences at the University of Trento, Rovereto in Italy.

Professor Caramazza was born in Italy and later emigrated with his parents to Canada, where in 1970 he received a B.A. degree in psychology from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Soon after, he relocated to the US to continue his studies and received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1974. He joined the Johns Hopkins faculty that year and taught first in the Psychology Department and then in the Cognitive Science Department, which he helped create. In 1993 he joined the faculty at Dartmouth College as the David T. McLaughlin Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology.  

Professor Caramazza has held Research, Visiting, and Adjunct professorships at the University of Genève; University of Maryland (College Park); University of Rome, La Sapienza; Concordia University, Montreal; Istituto di Psicologia, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Rome; Scuola Superiore degli Studi Avanzati (SISSA), Trieste; University of Trento, Trento. 

Prof. Alfonso Caramazza’s research explores the nature and organization of language processing and object and action representation in the brain. In the language area, he has focused mainly on questions about the representation of word knowledge and the mechanisms of word production and recognition.  He has studied these topics extensively in patients, documenting a series of dissociations within the language system in the presence of neurological injury (e.g., after stroke). 

In addition to patient work, his research group also explores the neural organization of language processing in healthy individuals using a variety of research techniques including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and behavioral techniques. He has also made contributions in the areas of normal psycholinguistics, naive physics, and visual perception and attention.

Prof. Caramazza has served on the Advisory Committee of such organizations as the Fyssen Foundation in Paris, France, The Mind/Brain Institute at John Hopkins University; the Aphasia Research Center in Boston, in USA; The Institute of Psychology and CNR in Rome, Italy. 

He was Editor in Chief of Cognitive Neuropsychology (1998-2009) and served as a Member of the Board of Editors of many journals in the areas of cognitive neuropsychology, cognitive neuroscience, and language and cognition: Brain Research, Cognitive Brain Research (1991); Cognition (1983); Cortex (1981); Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (1988); Journal of Cognitive Science (2000); Journal of Neurolinguistics (1992); Language and Cognitive Processes (1988); Lingue e Linguaggio (2002); Neurocase (1995); Neuropsychologia (1994); Neuropsicologia Latina (1994); Reveu de Neuropsychologie (1991); Sistemi Intelligenti (1988); Syntax (1998); Aging: Clinical and Experimental Research (1989); Journal of Aphasiology (1986); Applied Psycholinguistics (1980); Brain and Cognition (1982, Associate Editor); Brain and Language (1978); Giornale Italiano di Psicologia (1981); Journal of Physiology: An Integrative Neuroscience Journal (1992); Mathematical Cognition (1994); Neuropsychology (1996); Neuropsychology Review (1988); Reading and Writing:  An Interdisciplinary Journal (1988) Rivista di Linguistica (1988).  

Professor Alfonso Caramazza has been the recipient of a Javits Neuroscience Award, and the Signoret Prize in the Biology of Cognition. He also received an honorary doctorate from the Catholic University of Louvain and was elected to Society of Experimental Psychologists in 2004. His work has been cited more than 60,000 times.

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