Prof. Franco Cauda’s research focuses on:
I) Pathoconnectomics – This discipline studies how brain disorders impact on brain connectivity patterns, so as to better understand the relationship between brain alterations (considered from both the functional and structural perspectives) and brain disorders, as well as to find out how brain alterations spread within cerebral regions by identifying their propagation patterns and mechanisms.
II) Brain connectivity – This research area concerns the study of how different brain areas connect with each other and interact. The methodology used for these investigations can construct anatomical or functional maps, as well as models of causal interaction between areas. Maps can be elaborated at different scales, from the neuronal level (micro) to the structural level of groups of neurons (macro). Findings about the anatomical and functional structures of brain connectivity are of great importance to better understand the functioning of the human brain, the relationship between neural activity and behavior, and the emergence and development of brain disorders.
III) Resting state fMRI (rsfMRI or R-fMRI) – This is a functional neuroimaging method that can be used to examine and assess how brain regions interact when human beings are not involved in specific tasks. Resting state activity can be observed with the fMRI by measuring the changes in the blood flow. As cerebral activity always stays on, each brain area shows spontaneous fluctuations in the fMRI signal. Thus, analyses of rsfMRI are essential to study the brain functional organization as well as its pathological alterations.
IV) Pain – Pain is a complex phenomenon, encompassing both sensory and emotional features. In its chronic form it is a dysfunctional response that persists well after the acute phase; it therefore heavily affects the quality of life. The study of acute and chronic pain can be carried out with a combination of different tools and experimental approaches (e.g., neuroimaging and lesional studies). The aim of Dr. Cauda’s research about pain is to better understand the brain mechanisms regulating the response to painful stimuli in both healthy and pathological subjects as well as the mechanisms regulating the intensity of these responses.
V) Complex neural systems – This research field focuses on creating mathematical models that integrate anatomical, neuroimaging, and genetic data. The construction of these models allow a better understanding of brain functioning and pathophysiology in terms of neural networks. Findings in this research field are essential to study the degree of susceptibility of different brain areas within networks to pathological damage.
VI) Voxel-based meta-analysis – The increasing number of fMRI and VBM investigations makes now possible to perform meta-analyses that combine data coming from a wealth of studies. By using specific statistical tools we can not only single out better the information of fMRI data but also infer the parameters of brain connectivity (e.g., MACM) from data that were not originally obtained for such use.
Dr Tommaso Costa’s research focuses on:
I) Statistical mechanics of neural networks and their computational properties. Statistical mechanics is a tool developed by physicist that permit to describe system composed by many elements like gas. In the past Hopfield (1982) describe a neural network with associative memory properties using the tools of the statistical mechanis. In particular he found a form of the energy of the system. Aim of this project is to develop further the model and utilize it for detecting functional connectivity in fmri data.
II) Analysis of random walk and diffusion models of biological signals.
Aim of the project is to investigate the nature of the biological signal, in particular the BOLD signal to investigate the intrinsic properties of signal itself. We used the tool of the random walk for the analisys of the BOLD signal and we examine the functional difference of the different signal in the brain areas. The advantage of this tool is the capacity to extract useful information also with non gaussian signal or patological one.
III) Investigation of the neural basis of emotions.
Since William James’s work on emotions a great debate was stirred about their nature. There are two principal theories: discrete emotion models and dimensional models. There is not a definitive answer to the debate. Aim of this project is to investigate the neural distinctive patterns of emotions using meta-analytic and experimental methods with a particulat eye to the network model of the brain.
IV) Development of statistical methods for the meta-analysis of fmri data.
Aim of this project is to develop new methods for investigating meta-analytic data. In particular we want to develop new techniques for: parcellation and identification of cluster of foci; machine method for signature of pathological or cognitive state in meta analitic data.
Sergio Duca is Director of the Koelliker Hospital’s Department of Imaging. He is MD with specializations in Radiology, Neurology and Neurosurgery. His research activity encompasses both radiology and functional neuroimaging. His long-standing support for neuroimaging research fostered the birth of the Clinic and Experimental Group of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (GCS-fMRI). The GCS-fMRI is currently led by Dr. Sergio Duca and coordinated by Dr. Franco Cauda. Dr. Sergio Duca is also Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Turin.
Dr Mario Ferraro’s research focuses on
I) Analysis of random walk and diffusion models, in particular applications to gaze shift, exploraton of visual space and modelling of biological signals.
II) Statistical mechanics of neural networks and their computational properties.
III) Statistical and bayesian methods for inference.
IV) Wavelet analysis of biological signals
Post Doctoral Research Fellows
Dr. Joirdi Manuello in 2016 started the PhD course in Neuroscience. His previous research analyzed relationships between mindfulness meditation and consciousness. Jordi is currently working on meta-analysis of connectivity dynamics in cerebral pathology, focusing especially on insular cortex involvement in pathological damage.
Dr. Karina Tatu received her master’s degree from the University of Turin with a thesis entitled “Pathophysiology and neurocognitive consequences of hypopituitarism in acquired brain injury”. Currently she is completing her PhD at the University of Turin as member of the Clinical and Experimental Group for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (GCS-fMRI), Koelliker Hospital of Turin. Dr. Karina Tatu’s research focuses on clinical applications of MRI with particular interests in multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and brain tumors. She is actively involved in structural and functional MRI data acquisition and analysis for research and clinical purpose (e.g. task related and rs-fMRI, DTI-tractography). She is interested in structural and functional connectivity, pathoconnectomics and brain mapping.
Dr Andrea Nani’s research focuses on understanding how the brain responds to damage. His research uses network analysis techniques and neuroimaging tools (i.e., functional magnetic resonance imaging, voxel-based morphometry, etc.) to investigate what brain areas are most affected by neuropathologies. There is in fact increasing evidence that brain impairment might follow both anatomically and functionally recognizable patterns of distribution, independently of the neuropathology taken into account. The investigations in this topic have produced a new field of neuroscientific research, which is called pathoconnettomics. Dr Nani earned a degree in Psychology with a thesis titled Clustering and decoding of brain structural alterations caused by neuropathologies. Previously he had earned a degree in Law Studies and a PhD in Philosophy. He is also very interested in Consciousness Studies, and on this topic he is actively involved in research on both the theoretical and clinical perspectives. He has co-authored and wrote two books, both published by Springer Verlag, about consciousness – titled Neuroimaging of Consciousness and Consciousness: Theories in Neuroscience and Philosophy of Mind, respectively – with international renowned authors (i.e., Prof. Andrea E. Cavanna, Prof. Hal Blumenfeld, Prof. Steven Laureys). Dr Nani is also currently a member of the Michael Trimble Neuropsychiatric Research Group, University of Birmingham and BSMHFT, Birmingham, UK, and has held from 2013 to 2014 a Research Associate post at the Department of Neuropsychiatry, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK.
Ugo’s current research focuses on BOLD signal and particularly on the memory of such a signal. He investigates how such memory varies in different areas of the healthy brain and in case of damage. In 2013 he graduated in Science of Mind with a thesis on ‘post hypnotic effect investigated with fMRI and in 2014 started the PhD course in Neuroscience. Before he graduated in economics and worked for various companies as a product manager, project manager and marketing manager. Since 2008, he decided to follow his curiosity about how the brain is working and his connection with human behavior. Main instruments of his research are neuroimaging tools. In his research he doesn’t forget to use the deep introspective observation, developed by the practice of meditation and martial arts.
Stefano is currently at his last year of Master Degree in “Scienze del Corpo e della Mente” (Body and Mind Sciences) at the Department of Psychology, University of Turin, and at the same time at his last year at Scuola di Studi Superiori “Ferdinando Rossi” di Torino, an interdisciplinary school of advanced studies, in the class of “Governo e Scienze Umane” (Government and Human Studies). Following the last two years in Focus Lab he developed some skills in the neuroimaging research domain. What he likes most is the possibility to spend his interdisciplinary education, moving from neuropsychological topic to signal complexity, processing programming, bayesian probability, meta-analytic studies. Currently he is studying resting state images, signal complexity, image processing and meta-analytic models.
Matteo Diano has focused his research on the neuro-degenerative and rehabilitation in several cerebral degenerative diseases and trauma impairments using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) as a main investigating tool. His interests are related to profile the functional (functional MRI) and structural (Diffusion Weighted Imaging) connectivity to follow the process on pathological progression of the disease. He earned his degree in Psychobiology with the title “Preliminary Investigation on White Matter Structure in Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Tract-Based Spatial Statistics study” in collaboration with the Neuroimaging Center in Groningen (NL), supervisors Prof. Dr. Christian Keysers and Dr. Leonardo Cerliani. During his Ph.D. program, he collaborated with Dr. Enrico Premi and Prof. Dr. Barbara Borroni on Fronto-Temporal Dementia, producing publications on international journals. He is actually part of the Clinical and Experimental Group for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (GCS-fMRI) in Turin (IT), in collaboration with Koelliker Hospital and the Department of Psychology at the University of Turin.
Dr. Torta’s research focuses on the cognitive neuroscience of pain in healthy and clinical populations, with a particular emphasis on the interplay between attention and nociception. For this aim she combines behavioral, EEG, fMRI, TMS, and lesional techniques. She holds a PhD from the University of Turin (2011). During the PhD years she worked at Focus Lab and for a period was research associate in Oxford University and University College London. In 2014 she earned the E-G-G Efic-Grunenthal Grant for pain research and the Belgian Pain Society Award to promising young scientists in the pain field. She is currently post-doc at the Institute of Neuroscience, Université catholique de Louvain, funded by an AUL-Marie Curie fellowship and an FSR grant.