Research Lines for prospective PhD Students
Prospective PhD Students should choose 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 April 8th, 2022. It is advisable to contact the PIs if you want to know more about their research lines. There is also the opportunity to apply for the priority research-bonded grants as well (in Italian: “borse a tema vincolato”), if you are interested in those and feel qualified.
|Research Line #||Title (max 500 characters, typically: 150-300)||Supervisor||Potential Co-Supervisor/s (typically 1-2)||Other potential Collaborators||Short Abstract (max 150 words), if available (especially for priority research grants/borse a tema vincolato/apprendistato/industriale)|
|1||Psychophysiological correlates of chemiosignals comunication||Claudio Gentili||Simone Messerotti Benvenuti||In the framework of an Europenan Project we are studying how human odors influence perception and mood in healthy subjects and in individuals with subthreshold mood and anxiety disorders|
|2||VR experience, mood and psychophysiology||Claudio Gentili||Valentina Cardi
|In the framework of an Europenan Project we are studying how hre-experiencing and manipulating eventrs in VR modify mood and level of anxiety|
|3||Translational and forensic neuroscience||Cristina Scarpazza||Claudio Gentili||The translational application of neuroscientific findings into real world settings is sometimes particularly problematic. This is the case of translational application of scientific results into the forensic setting. Two forensic topics are very interesting to be explored with neuroscience: insanity evaluation and eyewitness testimony. Questions that still need to be answered are the following: Is it possible to improve the inter-rater reliability of psychiatric diagnosis and of insanity assessment? Can neuroscientific knowledge and methods be of help? Can the neuroscientific approach be useful to study insanity and eyewitness testimony? Is it possible to identify objective criteria for insanity and for identifying a good testimony? Is there a neuroscientific marker for free will? Can free will be discomposed into neuropsychological components? Can the convergence of evidence principle be of help in limiting the impact of cognitive biases on results?|
|4||Neuroscientific basis of cognitive impariment and rehabilitation in multiple sclerosis||Cristina Scarpazza||Dante Mantini||Giorgio Arcara||Cognitive impariment in multiple sclerosis is present in 70% of patients but it is still underinvestigated. iN particular, its neural basis are still unknown (why patients with different topographic distriibution of brain lesions manifest the same cognitive symptoms?) and the potential for rehabilitation is heaviliy understudied, in particular for what refers to social cognition. This gap need to be filled.|
|5||Keep cam and Carry on: Testing the effects of trancranial Alternated Current Stimulation (tACS) to reduce Anxiety and boost cognitive performance||Mario Liotti||Antonino Vallesi, Simone Cutini||The project will first ascertain the effect of high anxiety levels on EEG resting state oscillatory activity as well on performance and eror monitoring in emotional and neutral task contexts using an Affective Flanker Task and high Density electroencephalographic activity. Secondly, we plan to test the efficacy of a repeated tACS intevention vs. Sham to normalize cognitive performance and brain function in anxious people.|
|6||Brain Electrical Biomarkers of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and NonVerbal Disability Disorder (NLD)||Mario Liotti||Antonino Vallesi||Irene Mammarella (DPSS) Margaret Semrud-Clikemam (Univ. of Minnesota)||The project will compare EEG measures of regional activity in active visuospatial working memory (VSWM) and social cognition tasks and functional connectivity at rest (rs-FC) in networks supporting social and visuospatial in three groups of children and adolescents: ASD, NLD and typically developing controls (TD), to determine the association between performance levels in behavioral measures of social communication skills and VSWM and functional EEG measures both at rest and in active tasks.A machine learning approach will be employed to discriminate between the NLD, ASD and TD groups on rs-FC patterns in social and VSWM networks, and to predict individual scores in the performance measures in the behavioral assessment. Finally, graph theoretical analysis will be used to study whether network topology properties can be a significant marker for discriminating between NLD, ASD and TD groups, and to predict individual performance during the behavioral assessment.|
|7||Cognitive assessment after brain damage and in aging (normal and pathological). Behavioral , anatomical (lesion mapping) and electrical brain stimulation methods. Domains of investigation: attention, time representation and memory.||Mario Bonato||Alessandra del Felice||Chiara Spironelli, Mariagrazia Ranzini, Zaira Romeo|
|8||The processing of time and space in Parkinson’s disease. Anatomical, functional, and cognitive correlates.||Mario Bonato||Angelo Antonini||Marco Zorzi, Roberta Biundo|
|9||Artificial intelligence: targeting unsupervised knowledge discovery in neurosciences and biomedical data.||Manfredo Atzori||Gianmaria Silvello, Maurizio Corbetta. Final co-supervisors chosen according to the finally considered use cases.||Prof. Henning Müller, University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland & University of Geneva.||Exascale volumes of multimodal data are continuously produced in neurosciences and the biomedical domain, including for instance patient information, clinical data, biological laboratory data, bio-images, bio-signals, instrumental examinations and genetic data.
Fully exploiting them in order to extract knowledge and patterns is still an open challenge, due to the heterogeneity of data and state of the art limitations in machine learning.
This research line aims at developing machine learning methods to extract knowledge from multimodal biomedical data, in order to characterize patients with variable spatial and temporal resolution, leading to multimodal knowledge exploration and, eventually, precision medicine applications.
|10||Deep artificial neural networks: multi-scale and multi-modal applications to neuroscience and biomedical data analysis.||Manfredo Atzori||To be defined according to the project.||Prof. Henning Müller, University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland & University of Geneva.||The recent advancements of machine learning and, particularly, of deep learning paved the way to unprecedented opportunities in many domains, including neuroscience and medicine.
This research line targets the proposal of innovative ideas leveraging the capabilities of modern artificial intelligence and machine learning approaches for research applications in neurosciences and biomedical data analysis.
|11||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 infants√ï 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.|
|12||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 infants√ï 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.|
|13||Free energy principle and the brain: neuronal and phylogenetic mechanisms of Bayesian inference||Ettore Ambrosini||Aram Megighian, Marco Dal Maschio, Francesco Donnarumma (CNR), Antonino Vallesi||Claudia Lodovichi, Nicola Cellini||Compelling evidence from theoretical and simulation studies show that the free energy principle (FEP) can model and explain several structural and functional aspects of the brain, but its empirical validation is at the beginning also because of limitations of the neuroscientific tools used in humans. This project tackles this issue by integrating cognitive, animal, computational and comparative neuroscience. FEP will be investigated during perceptual decision making in humans, using EEG and fMRI, as well as in two animal models (fruit fly and zebrafish) using not only in vivo neuroimaging, but also optogenetics tools suited to causally investigate neural circuits at the cellular level, as informed by Bayesian computational modelling of the obtained behavioral and neural data.|
|14||Behavioral and neurobiological diagnostic and prognostic markers of post-stroke aphasia: a novel approach based on electroencephalography measures||Ettore Ambrosini||Dante Mantini, Francesca Peressotti||Maria Montefinese, Giorgio Arcara, Silvia Benavides-Varela||Stroke aphasia -SA, an acquired impairment in producing/understanding language- has a dramatic impact on functional communication and everyday activities of patients and their families, with huge social costs. It is thus vital to understand its prognostic and diagnostic factors to develop novel interventions. Clinical and experimental research showed that SA is usually associated with other cognitive disorders involved in the retrieval of meaning, such as the semantic and executive control processes. However, their specific role in affecting the severity and recovery of SA is still unknown. This project tackles this issue by using an innovative approach to provide more punctual behavioral and neurobiological markers of SA deficits and recovery and by studying the individual differences in EEG activity and functional organization, paving the way for new individualized rehabilitation strategies.|
|15||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, Ettore Ambrosini||Giovanna Mioni, Patrizia Bisiacchi, Maurizio Corbetta, Domenico D’Avella|
|16||Neural basis of executive functions, with special focus on hemispheric asymmetries||Antonino Vallesi||Ettore Ambrosini||Simone Messerotti-Benvenuti, Mario Liotti, Maurizio Corbetta, Patrizia Bisiacchi|
|17||Stroke, brain networks and behavior||Maurizio Corbetta||Marco Zorzi, Michel Thiebaut de Schotten, Antonino Vallesi||Florinda Ferreri||We are carrying out studies on the effect of focal lesions (stroke, tumors) on behavior and brain networks in relation to the mechanism of neurological recovery, outcome prediction, and novel strategies of intervention.|
|18||The representation function of spontaneous brain activity and the low dimensionality of brain activity and behavior||Maurizio Corbetta||Alessandra Bertoldo, Marco Zorzi, Giorgia Cona||Samir Suweis, Andrea Zangrossi||We plan to study whether fMRI intrinsic activity represents behaviorally relevant information, such as high level visual objects, motor actions, memories, and eye movements. We are emphasizing the importance of the low dimensionality of activity and behavior. Methods: fMRI, hd-EEG, multivariate analysis, resting state.|
|19||Non-pathological ageing brain characterisation by fractal dimension analysis.||Camillo Porcaro||Prof. Ferreri Florinda||Prof. Maurizio Corbetta; Prof. Paolo Maria Rossini; Prof. Angelo Antonini||The global population is ageing rapidly. However, the quality of life is not the same as the quantity of life.
Often, we focus on treating symptoms of the disease such as dementia or Parkinson’s. Instead, we believe a
focus on sustaining health will improve outcomes for people who develop brain conditions.
The project will combines brain imaging and maths. We will study data from people who
have aged well and from people with poor brain health. We will develop models that reveal features of ageing
well and will study how these features change in those with poor brain health. We will use our models to
propose experiments that can be performed by others to understand whether brain health can be sustained for
longer periods of time than is possible right now.
Our work may benefit society by revealing techniques to slow down changes in the brain that occur as a result
of ageing. Sustaining healthy functions for longer will improve the quality of life and enable more people to be
more productive. This is needed in societies where fewer children are born and people live longer.
|20||Identify new and robust markers able to characterize the unbalancing of the pathological intrinsic brain activity by fractal analysis.||Camillo Porcaro||Prof. Ferreri Florinda||Prof. Maurizio Corbetta; Prof. Paolo Maria Rossini; Prof. Angelo Antonini||Brain functions have traditionally been studied in terms of physiological responses evoked by external stimuli. This approach, however, does not consider that most of the brain’s energy is used for maintaining its intrinsic functioning i.e those brain activities that are not directly associated with the response to external stimuli. Here, we hypothesize that intrinsic brain activity (IBA) is used to maintain balance among the intrinsic brain networks. This balanced activity, measurable by nonlinear chaos theory such as fractal analysis, can be optimally tuned to react efficiently to specific tasks involving information processing for interpreting, responding to and predicting environmental demands. The ground-breaking nature of this proposal is to elucidate the contribution of the IBA to the brain’s balance, in healthy subjects with the aim to define a clear, physiological baseline for all transient changes due to alterations in perception or cognition, including those seen in pathology.|
|21||Development and validation of a standardized cogntive battery for Parkinson’s disease.||Biundo Roberta||Antonini Angelo, Giorgio Arcara||Borella Erika, Patrizia Bisiacchi||The project will aim to create nornative data from a multicenter cogntive and behavioural dataset of healthy subjects and Parkinson’s disease patients.|
|22||Modeling the link between structural connectivity and network complexity for personalized neurosurgery in glioma patients||Alessandra Bertoldo||Maurizio Corbetta||Diego Cecchin, F. Roncaroli, E. Silvestri||References: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.11.019;
|23||Functional, structural, effective, metabolic & molecular connectivity: understanding the spatio-temporal network dynamic communication underlying brain activity through MRI and metabolic and receptor PET imaging||Alessandra Bertoldo||Manu S Goyal, Andrei G. Vlassenko, Maurizio Corbetta||F. Turkheimer, Masahiro Fujita, Daniele Marinazzo, Alessandro Gozzi, Oliver Howes, Alessandro Chiuso||References: https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-728300/v1;
|24||Clincal and genetic deep phenotyping in calcium-accumulation human diseases||Miryam Carecchio||TBA||Prof. L. Salviati, Prof. R. Manara||Primary Familial Brain Calcification (PFBC) is a rare genetic neurodegnerative disorder caused by calcium phosphate deposition in basal ganglia and other brain regions. Clinically patients present with movement disorders, cognitive decline and psychiatric disturbances. This project is aimed at: 1) characterizing PFBC patients at a clinical, molecular and radiological level, searching for clinical and molecular prognostic factors and 2) dissecting clinical, radiological and genetic endophenotypes of patients without mutations in known genes in order to look for potential new causative genes by WES/WGS|
|25||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||Matteo Caleo (PNC, DSB UNIPD), Ivan Marchionni (PNC, DSB UNIPD), Stefano Vassanelli (PNC, DSB UNIPD), KC Brennan (Dept Neurology, Univ of Utah, USA), Alessandra Bertoldo (PNC, DEI UNIPD)||Migraine is a very common brain disease characterized by recurrent attacks of unilateral headache and a global dysfunction in multisensory information processing. Major open issues in the neurobiology of migraine are the mechanisms of the primary brain dysfunctions that underlie migraine onset, pan-sensory amplification and susceptibility to cortical spreading depression (CSD, the neurophysiological correlate of migraine aura and a trigger of headache mechanisms). To tackle these questions we use mouse models of familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM), a rare monogenic subtype of migraine with aura, namely FHM1 and FHM2 knockin mice showing facilitation of experimental CSD and enhanced cortical excitatory (but unaltered inhibitory) transmission. Our working hypothesis is that a key FHM pathogenic mechanism is dysfunctional regulation of the excitatory-inhibitory balance in the circuits that mediate reciprocal connections between primary sensory cortices and higher-order regions leading to facilitation of NMDA and Ca spikes in apical tuft dendrites and excessive long-range reverberant excitatory activity. To test this hypothesis we will combine experiments in acute cortical slices and awake head-fixed and freely behaving animals using electrophysiological, imaging and optogenetic techniques.|
|26||Psychophysiological alteration (HRV, Blink Rate, EEG Functional Connectivity) of emotional responses in personality disorders and psychopathology measured by means of naturalistic movie stimuli.||Alessandro Angrilli||Chiara Spironelli||Marco Marino (KU Luvain)|
|27||Psychophysiological effects of sensory deprivation, Bed Rest posture, and physical lockdown investigated through ERPs and EEG Functional Connectivity.||Alessandro Angrilli||Chiara Spironelli||Marco Marino (KU Luvain)|
|28||Investigating the efficacy of novel EEG-neurofeedback trainings for improving emotion regulation and executive functions in healthy individuals and in clinical populations||Simone Messerotti Benvenuti||Antonino Vallesi; Daniela Palomba|
|29||Affective processing in at-risk populations: towards novel psychophysiological measures of vulnerability to depression||Simone Messerotti Benvenuti||Daniela Palomba|
|30||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|
|31||Brain network dynamics in Bipolar disorders||Fabio Sambataro||Marco Solmi|
|32||Cognitive function and rehabilitation in patients with bipolar disorders||Fabio Sambataro||Marco Solmi, Antonino Vallesi|
|33||Artificial spiking neurons and brain connected for adaptive neruostimulation (http://synch.eucoord2020.com)||Stefano Vassanelli||Maurizio Corbetta, Alessandra Bertoldo, Marco Dal Maschio, Angelo Antonini, Samir Suweis|
|34||A hybrid network of in-silico and biological neurons in vitro for drug discovery (http://neureka.gr)||Stefano Vassanelli||Daniela Pietrobon, Maurizio Corbetta, Alessandra Bertoldo, Marco Dal Maschio, Samir Suweis|
|35||Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS): a neuroscience comprehensive approach to aetiology, diagnostic assessment and therapeutic target||Emanuela Formaggio||Prof. Stefano Masiero, Eng. Maria Rubega, Department of Neuroscience||Eng. Roberto Di Marco, Department of Industrial Engineering||The pathophysiology of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) is not yet completely understood, but multi-factorial hypotheses have been proposed including defective central nervous system control of posture, biomechanics alterations and alterations of body schema. AIS could be the expression of a sub-clinical nervous system disorder. The aim of our study was to compare the electroencephalography (EEG) activity in adolescents with AIS and controls, to examine the brain oscillatory changes related to balance control and inquire possibly related body schema representational alterations. Results may represent a valuable biomarker of AIS disease progression and offers novel therapeutic targets according to the identified pathophysiological patterns.|
|36||A paradigm to counteract the elderly falling: neurophysiological and biomechanical features to develop preventive startegies||Stefano Masiero||Eng. Maria Rubega, Department of Neuroscience; Prof. Nicola Petrone, Department of Industrial Engineering||Eng. Roberto Di Marco, Department of Industrial Engineering; Eng. Emanuela Formaggio, Department of Neuroscience||Age-related deterioration of biological systems in elderly populations could contribute to postural instability and falls. Wearable garments could contribute to postural regulation.
The 3-year project aims to: a) identify neurophysiological and biomechanical correlates of postural instability; b) understand of the effectiveness of the specific biomechanical strategies for balance control; c) exploit the previously built knowledge (a-b) to provide a dual approach to falls reduction in the elderly: i) a rehabilitative approach; ii) a preventive approach: a prototype of a passive viscoelastic smart-suit in collaboration with an up-end, internationally renowned Italian SME.
|37||Effectiveness of Extracorporeal shockwaves treatment (ESWT) on myofascial tissue to reduce spasticity after upper motor neuron injury||Stefano Masiero||Dr. Lucrezia Tognolo, Dr. Daniele Coraci, Department of Neuroscience||Upper motor neuron injuries frequently result in upper and lower limb spasticity. Several studies support the role of the tissue’s rheological properties in spasticity. Increased rigidity and altered collagenic components seem to sustain the pathological process. In addition, ESWT has a proven regenerative effect on the target tissues. The study aims at evaluating the effectiveness of ESWT on the myofascial tissue in patients with limb spasticity after upper motor neuron injury.|
|38||A multimodal approach to prevent falls in the elderly: muscle, brain and motion signals to develop symbiotic wearable devices||Alessandra Del Felice||Lorenzo Chiari DEI UNIBO, Emanuele Menegatti DEI UNIPD, Nicola Petrone DIN UNIPD|
|39||Priority Research-bonded fellowship (PRIN, DNS, prof. Dal Maschio/Ambrosini): Investigating the neuronal mechanisms of bayesian inference in zebrafish larvae (Danio rerio)||Marco Dal Maschio||Ettore Ambrosini, Aram Megighian||Claudia Lodovichi, Maria Elena Miletto Petrazzini|
|40||Priority Research-bonded fellowship (H2020, DNS, prof. Antonini): Neurocorrelates of cognitive decline in neurodegenerative diseases||Angelo Antonini||Biundo Roberta, Porcaro Camillo.||Florinda Ferreri, Diego Checchin||The project is focused on neuroimaging and neurophysiological correlates of cognitive decline using advanced methods of analyses.|
|41||Cognitive, affective and behavioural correlates of healthy and pathological aging: from prevention to intervention||Elisa Di Rosa||Patrizia Bisiacchi, Claudio Gentili, Valentina Cardi||Nicky Edelstyn, Daniela Mapelli, Erika Borella, Antonino Vallesi.|