Two universities whose campuses are more than 4,000 miles apart have come together with a goal of making roads safer around the world.
Central Michigan University and Cattolica University in Milan, Italy, conduct similar traffic psychology research. Using driving simulators and other technology, researchers assess cognitive fitness to drive and conduct research on attention and driving in older adults and in persons with attention, neurological or developmental disorders.
CMU's research is conducted in the Center for Driving Evaluation, Education and Research in Anspach Hall.
“Our labs have very complementary interests,” said Rick Backs, director of the DEER Center. With CMU in a rural location and Cattolica in an urban location we hope to be able to do research together on rehabilitation and training of vulnerable driver populations that neither of us could do on our own.”
The relationship has recently gained ground with the first exchange between the two institutions. Daniele Ruscio from Cattolica began a one-year term this fall as a postdoctoral faculty member in CMU’s DEER Center. He specializes in traffic and transportation psychology, including how visual attention, emotional regulation and decision-making processes can be trained to prevent road accidents.
“Dr. Ruscio's visit is just the first of what we hope will be ongoing faculty and student exchanges between our labs,” said Backs.
The DEER Center aims to provide clinical services that evaluate cognitive fitness to drive, education to improve driver safety and research on driver’s safety.
Since his arrival in Mount Pleasant, Ruscio has spent much of his time understanding how the DEER Center equipment and software work. He noted many similarities between the two institutions, but also many differences.
“The lab I study at in Italy is primarily research focused, but this center intrigues me as it also offers evaluation and research that help the local community,” said Ruscio.
Maria Ciceri, scientific head of the traffic psychology unit at Cattolica, and Federica Biassoni, a postdoctoral faculty member at Cattolica, visited CMU Sept. 23 through 25 to tour the DEER Center and learn more about CMU’s research. Backs also will visit Cattolica University later this fall to help further strengthen the relationship.
Learn more about the DEER Center here.