The MoMo Lab is the lab that I run at the University of Milano Bicocca. It was established in December 2010 thanks to a 470K-Euros, four-year grant awarded by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research. “MoMo” stands for “MOrphological MOdel”, which is the focus in the lab; our work is in fact aimed at building a complete model of the visual identification of complex words, possibly a computational one. This is an ambitious goal, which might well be beyond our grasp in the short term, but also seminal and inspirational in the research that it generates (which is why computational models are an invaluable tool in the first place).
We carry out behavioural, eye tracking and, thanks to extra-mural collaborations, ERP and fMRI experiments with skilled readers, as well as with brain-damaged people and children (see the Research page for more information). This work is performed by the MoMoers with the help of various, invaluably precious, collaborators. Marco Marelli was on board on several experiments that we’ve run so far; he has recently moved to the CIMeC (Rovereto, IT) to work in Marco Baroni’s lab on compositionality in distributional semantics. Rocco De Marco is our wonderful, all-around technician, with a 5-hours-a-week workload on our lab; he set up our supercomputer and our room for behavioural testing (see below for how gorgeous he was in that). Within the department, we also work with Claudio Luzzatti on brain-damaged patients, and with Manuela Berlingeri and Eraldo Paulesu when we need fMRI. Nationally, we currently collaborate with Daniela Traficante (Catholic University, Milan) on morphological masked priming in third-to-sixth grade children, and with Cristina Mapelli (San Gerardo Hospital, Monza) on masked priming in pictures and words. We’re also linked internationally to several world-leading centers for cognitive psychology and neuroscience: these includes the Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London (Kathy Rastle), the Department of Psychology in Bristol (Colin Davis), and the Department of Psychology, University of Exeter (Aureliu Lavric and Heike Elchlepp) in the UK; the Department of Psychology, University of Gent in Belgium (Marc Brysbaert and Emmanuel Keuleers); the Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, in Canada (Steve Lupker); and the Department of Psychology, University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia (Marcus Taft).
The MoMo is equipped with a dedicated room for behavioural testing with four cubicles, and with a computationally-intensive, CUDA-based computer, which runs 512 processing units distributed over 16 graphical stream multiprocessor. We’re very proud to own computers for behavioural testing that are completely open-source; they run Debian OS (a free Linux distribution), and manage experiments through an Octave routine based on Psychtoolboox. This is not only worth a mention for ethic/economic reasons, but also because the system allows us to (i) control the display with a ms precision (missed ticks are in the order of 1 every 10K in experimental settings); (ii) collect RTs to whatever precision we might need in each specific experiment; and (iii) display virtually every type of stimulus with extreme flexibility, all in machines that were bought in 2004 and that need no special hardware (such a PIO cards). We have also access to a departmental EyeLink 1000, which we use for eye tracking studies.