Italian Institute of Technology (IIT)
Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory
The Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory at the IIT focuses on the study of mammalian brain organization at the macroscale in order to understand how large scale functional activity and network dynamics originate, develop and govern behavioural states.
A major goal of our research is to unravel the elusive neurophysiological basis of macroscale functional connectivity as measured with neuroimaging methods, and the underpinnings of its aberrations observed in human brain disorders such as autism spectrum disorders.
To achieve these goals, we have pioneered the use of advanced magnetic resonance, magnetic (MRI) methods to image the structure and function of the living mouse brain under resting conditions, and upon pharmacological, neuromodulatory or genetic preconditioning.
The combined use of high resolution structural and functional MRI (fMRI) defines a novel investigational platform that we have successfully employed to describe the intrinsic organization of the mouse brain in unprecedented detail.
As part of this effort we have provided the first demonstration of the presence of a plausible distributed resting state networks in the mouse brain, and revealed a role for neurodevelopmental processes in connectivity alterations associated o autism. We aim to combine these novel approaches with cell type-specific optogenetic manipulations to establish causal relationship between local activity and its propagation at the systems level.
Current goals of our research activity are:
- Unravel the relationship between functional and structural connectivity by taking advantage of the mouse brain ground-truth connectome and relate network functional and structural network parameters.
- Deconstruct rsfMRI activity in the mouse brain into constituent neural populations (excitatory and inhibitory) as well as macroscale regions, based on their topological properties (e.g. hub, versus peripheral areas). To this aim we have developed a novel investigational paradigm termed chemo-fMRI.
- Probe the neural basis and unweave the genetic heterogeneity of dysfunctional connectivity observed in autism by deconstructing their complexity and isolating putative etiological factors in the mouse.