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 April 7th, 2021. 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 Supervisor Potential Co-Supervisor/s Other potential Collaborators Abstract (if available)
1 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
2 Oscillatory rhythms mediating spatio-temporal organization in visual perception and their modulation in patients with damage in the visual cortex: behavioral, EEG, clinical and non-invasive brain stimulation evidence. Clara Casco Mario Bonato, Giorgia Cona Luca Battaglini
3 From blindsight to visual awareness: psychophysics and EEG potential in differentiating restitutive from compensative plasticity following rehabilitation through the use of psychophysical and non-invasive Brain stimulation protocols. Clara Casco Mario Bonato, Giorgia Cona Luca Battaglini
4 Keep Calm and Carry On: Testing the effects of innovative interventions to reduce Anxiety on cognitive performance and brain function Mario Liotti Antonino Vallesi Simone Messerotti-Benvenuti, Chiara Spironelli Anxiety affects large-scale fronto-parietal and cingulo-opercular networks; such networks are also implicated in the proactive and reactive control of sensory-motor processes. The project will first determine the effects of high anxiety levels on performance and error monitoring in emotional and neutral task contexts using an affective flanker task (AFT) and high density electroencephalographic methods. Secondly, we plan to test the efficacy of a cognitive and neurofeedback training intervention to normalize cognitive performance and brain functions in anxious people.
5 Brain Electrical Biomarkers of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and NonVerbal Disability (NLD) Mario Liotti Irene Mammarella, DPSS Margaret Semrud-Clikeman (univ. of Minnesota), Maria Grazia Di Bono (Padova) 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.
6 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.
7 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.
8 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
9 The processing of time and space in Parkinson’s disease. Anatomical, functional, and cognitive correlates. Mario Bonato Angelo Antonini Marco Zorzi, Roberta Biundo
10 Time, Space and Numbers: Neural bases of quantity processing explored by means of TMS and EEG techniques Giorgia Cona Cristina Scarpazza; Dante Mantini Alessandra Bertoldo
11 Neurocognitive mechanisms of prospective memory in patients with Parkinson’s disease and healthy individuals. Giorgia Cona Angelo Antonini Patrizia Bisiacchi
12 Brain network dynamics in Bipolar disorders Fabio Sambataro Marco Solmi
13 Cognitive function and rehabilitation in patients with bipolar disorders Fabio Sambataro Marco Solmi, Antonino Vallesi
14 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.
15 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.
16 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
17 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
18 Investigation of the statistical invariants in the bursty dynamics of complex interaction networks, human, animal, computer and brain networks Marco Formentin Aram Megighian, Maurizio Corbetta, Samir Suweis, Giovanni Zanzotto
19 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.
20 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?
21 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.
22 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)
23 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)
24 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
25 Affective processing in at-risk populations: towards novel psychophysiological measures of vulnerability to depression Simone Messerotti Benvenuti Daniela Palomba; Mario Liotti
26 Resting-state electroencephalogram (RS-EEG) in children: a biomarker of neuropsychological dysfunctions in at-risk population? Patrizia Bisiacchi Massimo A. Padalino
Professore Associato in Chirurgia Cardiaca
Università degli Studi di Padova
Alessandra Fel Felice PA NSD Univ. Pd In the present project, we aim to examine age-related changes in RS-EEG power, functional networks, and their relations with neuropsychological functioning, in healthy children. Furthermore, we aim to evaluate the specificity of RS-EEG power as a biomarker of neuropsychological impairments by comparing healthy and Children with congenital heart diseases (CHD) at different age ranges.
27 EEG functional connectivity in time perception Patrizia Bisiacchi Marta Bortoletto Neurophysiology Lab
IRCCS Centro San Giovanni di Dio Fatebenefratelli Brescia
The project is focused on how time is perceived along different ages and which are the neural basis of such ability . Questions include whether an automatic brain mechanism is engaged in temporally regular environmental structure in order to anticipate events, and whether this can be dissociated from task related processes, including response preparation, selection and execution.
Delta (1±4 Hz) and beta (13±30 Hz) EEG/MEG oscillations have been recently demonstrated as EEG oscillatory rhythms that reflect neural processing of time.
Neural coupling in the delta and beta band is reported in relation to temporal prediction. Beta oscillation is also related to motor timing, which may provide a mechanism for time estimation of short intervals (1±2 seconds). Evidence also suggests that increased EEG/MEG delta activity occurs during anticipation and
expectancy conditions
28 Central autonomic reciprocal interactions in emotional responding to stressful events: implications for anger modulation Daniela Palomba Simone Messerotti Benvenuti; Alessandro Angrilli Elisabetta Patron
29 Navigated Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (nTMS) compared to Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fRMI) and “awake surgery”, to plan safe surgery in eloquent areas of the brain (motor and language areas). Andrea Landi Domenico d’Avella, Florinda Ferreri Luca Denaro, Renzo Manara, Valentina Baro
30 Surgical treatment of drug-resistant temporal lobe epilepsy: study of sensitivity in pre-operative evaluation (to detail the surgical resection) and correlation to clinical outcome after 12 months of follow-up, comparing metabolic (PET Mri), structural (MRi) and neurophysiological (High Density EEG ) data. Andrea Landi Diego Cecchin Florinda Ferreri, Concetta Luisi, Renzo Manara, Valentina Baro
31 A paradigm to counteract the elderly falling: neurophysiological and biomechanical features to develop preventive startegies  Alessandra Del Felice Emanuele Menegatti, Emanuela Formaggio Eng. Maria Rubega, Department of Neuroscience; Eng. Roberto Di Marco, Department of Neuroscience With the final aim to reduce falls and related healthcare and social costs in the elderly, the project aims to develop: i. a rehabilitative tool, i.e., an active closed-loop balance training based on cerebral (EEG) and muscular (EMG) responses to reinforce neuromuscular control and ii. a preventive tool, i.e., an innovative, low-cost, user-friendly, passive soft-exosuit to avoid daily life falls in the elderly.
32 Physiological basis for rehabilitation in adult Dravet Alessandra Del Felice Patrizia Bisiacchi; JW Sander, UCL, London Francesca Ragona, Istituto Neuologico Besta, Milano There is an increasing number of people with adult Dravet. As previosuly most of sufferers of this condition would die, there is a dearth of evidence on the degeneration of motor and cognitive abilities and this requires urgent work to develop a better understanding of these issues. The project will provide comprehensive picture of theneurophysiological (EEG), motor (instrumented gait analysis) and neuropshychological features in this neglected group. This will promote the development preventive and rehabilitation procedures to integrate pharmacoogical and genomic treatment to modify the course and outcome of the disease.
33 Pathophysiology in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) Stefano Masiero Emanuela Formaggio Maria Rubega The cause and pathophysiology of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) remains unclear, but multifactorial hypotheses including central nervous system abnormalities have been proposed to explain its appearance. The aim is to deepen the understanding of AIS aetiology by mean of EEG recordings during balance tasks. Results may represent a valuable biomarker of AIS disease progression and offers novel therapeutic targets according to the identified pathophysiological patterns.
34 Therapeutic exercise in thermal water. Stefano Masiero Lucrezia Tognolo Roberto Di Marco The aim is to define new rehabilitative protocol for people with muscle-skeletal impairments and neurological disorders in order to assess the effects of the specific exercises in thermal water in terms of proprioception, balance and movement control improvement (mesured by wereable sensors and electromyographic signal). Results could impact on developing more focused and effective rehabilitation treatment in thermal environment, optimizing the related healthcare and social costs resources.
35 Biological signatures of disease progression in synuclein-related disorders Angelo Antonini Miryam Carecchio The project aims at linking pathology signatures in biofluids with cognitive and motor progression in Parkinson’s disease and Multiple System Atrophy
36 Desynchronize abnormal brain connectivity with deep brain stimulation in Parkinson disease Angelo Antonini Florinda Ferreri, Andrea Landi The project aims at investigating cortico-subcortical coherence using EEG and recording electrodes implanted in the subthalamic nucleus of Parkinson patients
37 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
38 Neural basis of executive functions, with special focus on hemispheric asymmetries Antonino Vallesi Ettore Ambrosini, Patrizia Bisiacchi Simone Messerotti-Benvenuti, Daniela Palomba, Mario Liotti, Maurizio Corbetta
39 Meta-research, research quality, open science and research reproducibility in neuroscience Claudio Gentili Giorgia Cona, Patrizia Bisiacchi
40 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
41 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.
42 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.
43 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.
44 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.
45 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.
46 Machine learning algorithms for Brain-Computer Interface, with particular focus on classification methods based on Riemaniann and Procrustes distances. Livio Finos Angela Andreella
47 Multivariate Permutation methods for neuroscience data analysis Livio Finos Jelle Goeman, LUMC (NL); Aldo Solari, UniMIB (I) Federico Ferraccioli
48 Computational models to investigate the spatio-temporal network dynamic communication underlying brain activity through fMRI and metabolic and receptor PET imaging: a multimodal approach Alessandra Bertoldo Maurizio Corbetta, F. Turkheimer

Masahiro Fujita, Daniele Marinazzo, Alessandro Gozzi, Andrea Brovelli
49 Modeling the link between structural connectivity and network complexity for personalized neurosurgery in glioma patients Alessandra Bertoldo Maurizio Corbetta Michel Thiebaut de Schotten, Diego Cecchin
50 Impact of stroke lesions on the hierarchical organisation of the brain Michel Thiebaut De Schotten Antonino Vallesi Maurizio Corbetta, Giorgia Cona, Mario Bonato
51 (Priority Research-bonded grant on FET EU funding – Prof. Claudio Gentili) Use of Virtual reality and psychophisological measures to characterize and treat anxiety and mood symptoms Claudio Gentili Simone Messerotti Benvenuti
52 Priority Research-bonded grant funded by Fondazione Bruno Kessler – Prof. Samir Suweis Controllability of multi-layer networks in complex systems Samir Suweis Manlio De Domenico (FBK) Modelling of the brain as an emblematic empirical complex system, using multilayer network structure (both in time and space) and on the identification and control of central/influential units determining emergent macro-scale organizations (e.g. resting states networks). The research output will be used to design bio-inspired computational techniques with potential applications to artificial intelligence.