Research Lines

Prospective PhD Students should choose 1-2 research lines and write their project proposal (required for the next PhD entrance exam) generally based on those lines. The next call for the entrance exam is expected to open on May 4th, 2020. Do not miss the opportunity to also have a look at the priority research-bonded grants (in Italian: “borse a tema vincolato”) and apply for those you are interested in as well. It is advisable to contact the PIs if you want to know more about their research lines.

Research Line # Title
(max 500 characters, typically: 150-300)
Supervisor Potential Co-Supervisor/s (typically 1-2) Other potential Collaborators Abstract (if available)
1 Meta-research, research quality, open science and research reproducibility in neuroscience Claudio Gentili Giorgia Cona, Patrizia Bisiacchi
2 Investigation of the statistical invariants in the bursty dynamics of complex interaction networks Ð human, animal, computer, and brain networks Giovanni Zanzotto Aram Megighian, Maurizio Corbetta, Samir Suweis, Marco Formentin
3 Impact of stroke lesions on the hierarchical organisation of the brain Michel Thiebaut De Schotten Antonino Vallesi Maurizio Corbetta, Giorgia Cona, Mario Bonato
4 The neural basis of early speech perception: NIRS and EEG studies Judit Gervain Silvia Benavides Varela The role of experience in language acquisition has been the focus of heated theoretical debates, between proponents of nativist views according to whom experience plays a minimal role and advocates of empiricist positions holding that experience, be it linguistic, social or other, is sufficient to account for language acquisition. Despite more than a half century of dedicated research efforts, the problem is not solved. The present project brings a novel perspective to this debate, combining hitherto unconnected research in language acquisition with recent advances in the neurophysiology of hearing and speech processing. Specifically, it claims that prenatal experience with speech, which mainly consists of prosody due to the filtering effects of the womb, is what shapes the speech perception system, laying the foundations of subsequent language learning. Prosody is thus the cue that links genetically endowed predispositions present in the initial state with language experience. The proposal links the behavioral and neural levels, arguing that the hierarchy of the neural oscillations corresponds to a unique developmental chronology in human infantsÕ experience with speech and language. The project uses state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques, EEG & NIRS, with monolingual full term newborns, as well as full-term bilingual, preterm and deaf newborns to investigate the link between prenatal experience and subsequent language acquisition. It proposes to follow the developmental trajectories of these four populations from birth to 6 and 9 months of age.
5 Acquiring grammar: behavioral studies with preverbal infants Judit Gervain Silvia Benavides Varela The role of experience in language acquisition has been the focus of heated theoretical debates, between proponents of nativist views according to whom experience plays a minimal role and advocates of empiricist positions holding that experience, be it linguistic, social or other, is sufficient to account for language acquisition. Despite more than a half century of dedicated research efforts, the problem is not solved. The present project brings a novel perspective to this debate, combining hitherto unconnected research in language acquisition with recent advances in the neurophysiology of hearing and speech processing. Specifically, it claims that prenatal experience with speech, which mainly consists of prosody due to the filtering effects of the womb, is what shapes the speech perception system, laying the foundations of subsequent language learning. Prosody is thus the cue that links genetically endowed predispositions present in the initial state with language experience. The proposal links the behavioral and neural levels, arguing that the hierarchy of the neural oscillations corresponds to a unique developmental chronology in human infantsÕ experience with speech and language. The project uses state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques, EEG & NIRS, with monolingual full term newborns, as well as full-term bilingual, preterm and deaf newborns to investigate the link between prenatal experience and subsequent language acquisition. It proposes to follow the developmental trajectories of these four populations from birth to 6 and 9 months of age.
6 Complex System approaches to study the brain. My research tackles the study of the brain from a systemic perspective. Topics of interests include network neuroscience, brain modelling and controllability and brain criticality. Samir Suweis Stefano Vassanelli, Biomed Dept. Marco Dal Maschio, Boimed Dept. Maurizio Corbetta, PNC; Marco Formentin, Math Dept.; Amos Maritan, Physics Dept.; Claudia Lodovichi, CNR/VIMM
7 Machine learning algorithms for Brain-Computer Interface, with particular focus on classification methods based on Riemaniann and Procrustes distances. Livio Finos Angela Andreella
8 Multivariate Permutation methods for neuroscience data analysis Livio Finos Jelle Goeman, LUMC (NL); Aldo Solari, UniMIB (I) Federico Ferraccioli
9 Neural bases of space and time processing explored by means of TMS and EEG techniques Giorgia Cona Dante Mantini Maurizio Corbetta, Alessandra Bertoldo
10 Neurocognitive mechanisms of prospective memory in patients with Parkinson’s disease and healthy individuals. Giorgia Cona Angelo Antonini Patrizia Bisiacchi
11 Neuropsychological and electrophysiological assessment of children with congenital heart defects: looking for EEG markers Patrizia Bisiacchi Alessandra Del Felice, Massimo Padalino, Paola Cogo Congenital heart defects (CHD) are the most common congenital defects, affecting nearly 1% of all newborns. Several studies demonstrated that children with CHD are at high risk to develop a wide spectrum of neurodevelopmental sequelae. The project aims to investigate possible neuropsychological impairments and to correlate the neuropsychological performance with EEG connectivity.
12 EEG functional connectivity in Huntington disease Patrizia Bisiacchi Angelo Antonini Giorgio Arcara Cognitive and brain connectivity correlates in Huntington disease
Huntington’s disease causes progressive loss of striatal neurons, a
critical node in frontostriatal circuitry. The present project
focuses on the study of differences in brain functional networks in
normal subjects and Huntington disease (HD) patients.
Maintenance of cognitive and motor performance is dependent on
functional connectivity of premotor, motor, and dorsolateral
frontostriatal circuits, and structural integrity of the striatum
itself.
The main goal of the present project is to evaluate cognitive and
motor function in symptomatic and asymptomatic HD carriers and
investigate its resting state EEG and fMRI connectivity
underpinnings. We also aim at exploring if neural FC can be modulated
by administering non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS)
a presto
13 Characterizing and, based on mathematical modelling, controlling, neuronal activity and oscillations in physiological and pathological conditions. We employ a variety of cutting-edge experimental approaches, including electrophysiological recordings and all-optical imaging, in vivo, in freely behaving animals, including mice and fish. Claudia Lodovichi Marco Dal Maschio, Samir Suweis
14 Cognitive deficits in normal and pathological aging. Behavioral (dual tasking), anatomical (lesion mapping after stroke) and EEG studies in the field of emotion, attention and memory. Mario Bonato Alessandra del Felice Chiara Spironelli, Mariagrazia Ranzini, Zaira Romeo
15 The processing of time and space in Parkinson’s disease. Anatomical, functional, and cognitive correlates. Mario Bonato Angelo Antonini Marco Zorzi, Roberta Biundo
16 Computational models of the spatio-temporal network dynamic communication underlying brain activity during rest and task Alessandra Bertoldo Maurizio Corbetta Gustave Deco, Andrea Brovelli
17 Modeling the link between structural connectivity and network complexity for personalized neurosurgery in glioma patients Alessandra Bertoldo Maurizio Corbetta Michel Thiebaut de Schotten, Andrea Brovelli
18 Neuromodulation of inter-hemispheric dynamics with non-invasive brain stimulation, EEG neurofeedback and neuropsychological training as tools to rehabilitate or potentiate high-level cognitive functioning. Antonino Vallesi Ettore Ambrosini Patrizia Bisiacchi, Maurizio Corbetta, Alessandra Del Felice, Florinda Ferreri, Mario Liotti, Domenico D’Avella
19 Effect of healthy and pathological aging in the neuro-cognitive architecture of attentional and executive functions: behavioral, fMRI and EEG studies Antonino Vallesi Annachiara Cagnin Giovanna Mioni, Angelo Antonini
20 Cellular and circuit mechanisms of migraine: a multiscale approach in genetic mouse models of the disease using electrophysiological, imaging and optogenetic techniques Daniela Pietrobon Marco Dal Maschio (PNC, DSB UNIPD), Ivan Marchionni (PNC, DSB UNIPD), Matteo Caleo (PNC, DSB UNIPD), Stefano Vassanelli (PNC, DSB UNIPD), KC Brennan (Dept Neurology, Univ of Utah, USA), Alessandra Bertoldo (PNC, DEI UNIPD)
21 Lower limb exoskeleton with integrated muscle and brain biosignals for motor rehabilitation in stroke survivors. These data contribute to the understanding of muscle activity (EMG) and functional neuronal interactions (EEG) during lower limb robot-assisted motor performance. The final output of this line of research is to inform the design and development of robotic devices for neurorehabilitation Alessandra Del Felice Eng. Emanuela Formaggio, Department of Neuroscience – Eng. Maria Rubega, Department of Neuroscience Prof. E. Menagatti – Department of Information Engineering
22 Multimodal evaluation of recovery trajectories in upper limb robotic rehabilitation in stroke survivors. Clinical, neurophysiological and motion capture analysis data will be fed into a computational model to clarify the concept of proportional recovery in stroke Stefano Masiero Prof. Menegatti Eng. Roberto Di Marco, Department of Neuroscience
23 Electroencephalography (EEG) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) co-registration in acute disorders of consciousness. Alessandra Del Felice
24 Psychophysiology of emotions under ecological conditions in healthy individuals and in patients with personality or psychiatric disorders Alessandro Angrilli Angela Favaro Chiara Spironelli
25 Evolutionistic models of emotional processing and emotional alteration measured with neurophysiological and psychophysiological methods Alessandro Angrilli Aram Megighian
26 Anorexia nervosa and attentional bias in the context of neuromodulation Elena Tenconi Angela Favaro, Valentina Cardi Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is a severe and difficult to be treated mental disorder, typically associated with both medical/psychiatric comorbidities and very high mortality rates. From a cognitive point of view, individual affected by AN show beliefs and expectancies referring to both body size and eating strongly biased in favor of selectively processing information which is specifically related to body weight, dieting and control of food intake. Cognitive biases, distortions and poor insight are hypothesized to contribute to the development and maintenance of the disorder itself and may interfere with treatment outcome. A potential role might be played by altered attentional processing of food-related information, but the literature on this topic is mixed: compared to healthy controls, AN patients in some studies showed increased attentional orienting toward high-calorie food, while in others they exhibited both attentional avoidance for high-calorie food and enhanced attention toward low-calorie food stimuli. Underlying cognitive mechanisms may be a top-down process, which would inhibit the automatic attentional orienting to food, especially tasty food or, on the contrary, in line with the hypothesis considering AN as a habit disorder, food stimulus may loose its automatic reward value and cease to be an attractive cue. We would like to study these aspects in AN, especially with regard to clinical subtypes, illness status, and other neuropsychological features. Once located the mechanism by pictorial dot-probe methodology we aimed to explore a single-session transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) modulation effects on attentional bias.
27 Anorexia nervosa and autobiographical memory: clinical and anatomical correlates Elena Tenconi Angela Favaro, Valentina Cardi Autobiographical memories (AMs)are crucial personal memory representations, which set the content of the self and define not only who we are, but also who we have been and who we will become. The literature highlights a significant association between overgeneralization of memories instead of specific autobiographical episodic memories and some psychiatric disorders (i.e., depression, PTSD). In spite of a great lack of personal memories (e.g., the benefit of recovery for those patients who relapsed after improvement) in Anorexia nervosa (AN) patients, there are very few studies that have pursued this topic. The few studies that addressed the brain localization of AM during memory retrieval found two steps pattern of cortical activation, early processing primarily involved anterior areas of the brain and the later activation seem involve more posterior areas together with dorsal frontal-parietal regions. It was proposed that first activation reflects complex retrieval process, such as the strategic search of episodic traces, while later posterior activation would be associated with the formation and maintenance of specific-detailed memories, mental imagery, reliving and working memory process. The aims of the present investigation are twofold. The first is to assess autobiographical memory both cross-sectionally, in a group of AN patients compared to a group of control women, and longitudinally in the same AN group at different points of the treatment. The second aim is to assess the anatomical localization of specific memories in AN patients compared to healthy controls by means of electroencephalogram methodology with specific focus on the type of memory recalled and the emotional valence of both stimuli and memory.
28 The relationship between brain connectivity, cognitive functioning and brain morphological changes in Anorexia Nervosa Angela Favaro Elena Tenconi, Maurizio Corbetta, Valentina Cardi, Fabio Sambataro Study of associations between changes in brain morphology, changes in brain functional and structural connectivity and cognitive functioning in patients with anorexia nervosa
29 Cognitive and attentional bias in psychiatry: neuropsychological correlates and use of innovative treatment approaches Angela Favaro Elena Tenconi Valentina Cardi The objective of the project is to develop validated treatment methods to be implemented in psychiatric patients in order to modify those cognitive and attentional biases that contribute to maintain the disease.
30 Transition to severe mental illness in at-risk mental state: a multi-modal approach Marco Solmi Angela Favaro Elena Tenconi, Alessandra Bertoldo, Fabio Sambataro The objective of the project is to create a multi-modal prognostic model that predicts the transition to psychosis.
31 Low dimensionality of brain activity and behavior Maurizio Corbetta Giorgia Cona Andrea Zangrossi We are planning behavioral and high density EEG experiments to study the dimensionality of behavior (eye movements during visual exploration) and brain activity measured with high density EEG. Methods: eye tracking and hd-EEG
32 The representation function of spontaneous brain activity Maurizio Corbetta Alessandra Bertoldo, Marco Zorzi Samir Suweis We plan to study whether fMRI intrinsic activity represents behaviorally relevant information, such as high level visual objects, motor actions, memories, etc. Methods: fMRI multivariate analysis, resting state.
33 Understanding genetic, cognitive and funcional underpinnings of neurodegeneration in parkinsonisms Angelo Antonini Patrizia Bisiacchi, Renzo Manara Miryam Carecchio Clinical manifestations in degenerative parkinsonisms (Parkinson disease, Multiple System Atrophy, Progressive Suprancuclear Palsy and other tauopathies) involve a combination of motor, cognitive and behavioral manifestations. Degeneration is mediated by progressive disruption of brain functional connectivity, reduced intra-network cross-talk and efficiency . This project aims at defining multimodal imaging biomarkers associated with motor, cognitive and behavioral scales taking into consideration the role of gender and genetic background. Data have already been collected and available in large datasets
34 Brain modulation in Parkinson disease Angelo Antonini Andrea Landi, Giorgia Cona Alessandra Del Felice Parkinson disease is characterized by pathological beta activity in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) and globus pallidus internus (Gpi) which can be suppressed during both STN and GPi deep brain stimulation. This is achieved by stimulation of the membrane potentials of the target population and its projection sites which reduces pathological activity in the Cortico-STN and STN-GPe pathways. The project will assess the efficacy in Parkinson patients of novel adaptive closed-loop systems that integrate feedback signals (recorded by Local Field Potentials) to rapidly adjust stimulation in response to real-time patient needs. The objective will be to define the range of amplitude of oscillatory activity in the _-band exceeding a defined threshold and determining clinical improvement by turning on stimulation.
35 Alterations of visual pathway in neurodegenerative diseases: Annachiara Cagnin
36 Changes of primary somatosensory cortex across psychiatric diseases Annachiara Cagnin
37 Visual selective attention and action selection in invertebrates. Processing mechanisms and neural circuits in Drosophila melanogaster Aram Megighian Marco Dal Maschio (PNC), Mauro Agostino Zordan (PNC), Umberto Castiello (DPG)
38 Spatial learning and memory in invertebrates. Analysing neural correlates using otpogenetic techniques in Drosophila melanogaster Aram Megighian Marco Dal Maschio (PNC), Mauro Agostino Zordan (PNC)
39 (Priority Research-bonded grant Casa di Cura Parco Dei Tigli) Novel methods in the diagnosis and treatment of resistant mood disorders: an integrated approach (Priority Research Bonded grant) Giulia Perini
40 (Priority Research-bonded grant CNR) Analysis of neuronal circuit dynamics in autistic brain Claudia Lodovichi Marco Dal Maschio We aim at dissecting neuronal activity and oscillations at resting state and in response to sensory stimuli, in animal models of autism. We will mostly focus on the impact of altered inhibitory circuitry on neuronal dynamics. To tackle these aspects and to investigate the neuronal basis of distinct cognitive and sensory alteration, we use electrophysiological and optical recording of neuronal activity along with behavioral tasks. Mathematical modelling are applied to characterize neuronal activity with single cell resolution and to design proper neuromodulation strategies. The lab works with cutting-edge experimental approaches including electrophysiological recordings in freely behaving mice, all-optical imaging approaches, in vivo and behaviour.
41 (Priority Research-bonded grant, ERC BrainRhythm project – DPSS, Prof. J.
Gervain)
Tuned to the Rhythm: How Prenatally and Postnatally Heard Speech Prosody Lays the Foundations for Language Learning Judit Gervain
42 (Priority Research-bonded grant Neuro-diP) Department of Eccellence DNS: Precision Neuroscience and deep phenotypization of clinical populations and healthy individuals through neuroimaging, electrophysiology, genetics and/or wearable technology All Teaching Board Members affiliated to the Department of Neuroscience
43 (Priority Research-bonded grant) Department of Eccellence DPG: Use-inspired basic research targeting cognitive, emotional or behavioural functions (or dysfunctions) using innovative methods or technologies, considering how the expected results would have broader impact on society All Teaching Board Members affiliated to the Department of General Psychology
44 (Priority Research-bonded grant: Stars project DII – Dr. O. Gagliano) Development of an in vitro model for diagnostic screening in Familial Alzheimer Disease patients Teaching Board members working on Alzheimer’s disease Onelia Gagliano Nicola Elvassore
45 (Priority Research-bonded grant on IIT funding – Dr. Francesco Papaleo) Immunomodulatory Effects of Oxytocin-Cannabinoids Cross-Talk in the Social Brain Fabio Sambataro Francesco Papaleo Stefano Vassanelli Within the social brain, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is thought to orchestrate a top-down control of social cognitive functions such as the ability to recognize and process emotional states in others. Increasing evidence is strengthening the involvement of inflammatory/immune processes in actively remodeling the social brain. However, the PFC mechanisms underlying the link between immune responses and social cognition are unknown. Here, we propose to capitalize on a series of new findings we are collecting that suggest a cross-talk between the oxytocin (OXT) and cannabinoid (CB) systems, at the PFC level, in social information processing and immune responses. The project will focus on microglia- and astrocyte-mediated effects as a convergent point in linking immune responses to social cognitive abilities trough OXT-by-CB interactions. In particular, we will follow a multi-disciplinary approach to disentangle how OXT and CB interact in vivo trough microglia- and astrocyte-dependent mechanisms in the PFC: (1) to mediate the ability to perceive, process and react to different affective states in others; (2) to solve their central and peripheral immunomodulatory effects; (3) to directly link immune responses to social cognition in the context of exogenous exposure to OXT and CB agents, as well as in social, genetic and inflammatory conditions known to have immunological and psychiatric consequences with strong social alterations. This project has the ambitious aim to explore new scientific paths related to social cognitive functions and to provide new mechanistic knowledge linking social cognition with immune processes. The results will have broad implications for psychiatric, neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental conditions associated with pathological immune/social development, giving a new approach to an old problem.
46 (Industrial PhD, reserved to employees from Ospedale San Camillo IRCCS S.r.l.) Industrial PhD: Ospedale San Camillo IRCCS S.r.l.: Investigation of neural substrates underpinning upper limb sensorimotor impairment and recovery of voluntary motor behaviour, after stroke (Reserved to San Camillo employees) Tutor at the company: Andrea Turolla, PhD Supervisor: Dante Mantini
47 (PhD in Apprendiceship with Ospedale San Camillo IRCCS S.r.l.) The aim of this project is to study the relationship between communicative abilities (according to the language pragmatics viewpoint) and monitoring ability at a neural and cognitive level. This project involves the study of healthy individuals and patients with neurological disorders by means of cognitive tasks and hd-EEG. (max age: 29 years) Tutor at the company: Giorgio Arcara, PhD Supervisor: Antonino Vallesi
48 Epigenetic landscape of sleep and behavior in mammals: in vivo and in vitro studies of neuronal functions Marco Formentin Valter Tucci
49 Multimodal imaging phenotypes of risk for Schizophrenia and bipolar disorders Fabio Sambataro Marco Solmi