CURRENT PROJECTS

THE ROLE OF THE CEREBELLO-CORTICAL CIRCUITS IN THE SOCIAL COGNITION 
 
This line of research explores the involvement of the cerebello-cortical circuits in the social cognition domain by using an integrate behavioral, neuroimaging and neurophysiological approach in patients affected by cerebellar pathology.
Moreover, the study is also performed in healthy subjects by transcanial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in order to investigate the effect of the cerebellar excitability modulation on specific social cognition aspects.
A better understanding of the cerebellar role in social behavior will be of extremely importance to develop new therapeutic approach for psychiatric disorders characterized by social cognition alterations (e.g.: schizophrenia and autism).
 

 
 
THE ROLE OF THE CEREBELLUM IN THE NEURO-BIOLOGICAL BASIS OF AUTISM
 
Aim of the present research line is to characterize the role of the cerebello-cortical circuits in specific Theory of Mind (ToM) aspects.
For the first time it is directly compared the ToM performance and neuro-anatomical alterations in patients affected by genetic Spino-Cerebellar Ataxia (SCAs) and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) patients, opening new perspectives about a cerebellar role in autism.
An ad-hoc ToM battery and advanced MRI methods to evaluate the structural and functional alterations in cerebellar-cortical circuits of SCAs and ASDs patients are applied.
 

 
CEREBELLAR TRANSCRANIAL DIRECT CURRENT STIMULATION EFFECTS ON COGNITION AND BEHAVIOUR.

This line of research investigates the behavioral effects of the transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the cerebellum, 

in order to clarify the specific role of the cerebello-cortical networks in cognitive and emotional functions.
Taking into account the recent findings about the rehabilitation potentiality of the tDCS in patients affected by mood disorders, a deeper understanding of the cerebellar tDCS effects on behavioral tasks could open new perspectives on rehabilitation approaches
 
 

THE CEREBELLAR ROLE IN COGNITION AND BEHAVIOR AS ASSESSED BY ADVANCED NEUROIMAGING TECHNIQUES

This research line aims to investigate the cerebro-cerebellar interactions in patients presenting with cerebellar pathologies by means of advanced neuroimaging techniques such as diffusion-based tractography and resting state functional MRI. The experimental paradigm involves a magnetic resonance imaging protocol at 3T to compare structural and functional patterns of cerebello-cortical circuits between patients and healthy subjects and to explore the impact of the cerebellar damage on cognitive and emotional functions. Furthermore, this experimental protocol is also carried out in patients affected by autistic spectrum disorders, in order to investigate structural and functional features of the cerebro-cerebellar networks that may account for specific aspects of the autistic disorders.


THE ROLE OF THE CEREBELLO-CORTICAL CIRCUITS WITHIN VISUOSPATIAL FUNCTIONS
This research line investigates the involvement of the cerebello-cortical networks in memory and sequential learning abilities within spatial domain. The experimental paradigm requires the use of an innovative tool, a sensorized tiles managed by an ad hoc developed software.
Particularly care is taken into discriminate implicit and explicit components of visuospatial sequential learning. This research is carried out in patients affected by focal or degenerative cerebellar lesion and in healthy subjects.

VIRTUAL REALITY AND INTERACTIONS AMONG CEREBELLAR FUNCTIONS

This line of research aims to investigate the interaction between motor, cognitive, and behavioral functions of the cortico-cerebellar circuits within the framework of the “sequence detection theory” proposed as general operational mode of the cerebellum (Leggio et al., 2011).
This research is carried out in patients affected by focal or degenerative cerebellar lesion and in healthy subjects.
Moreover, the use of virtual reality techniques allows to implement new neuro-rehabilitation protocols, specifically aimed to the recovery of the cerebellar disabilities.

 


MOOD AND EMOTION REGULATION IN EVERYDAY LIFE OF CEREBELLAR PATIENTS
This research line aims to investigate the mood alterations and the emotional functions in patient affected by cerebellar pathologies.
The Mood Monitoring (MoMo) device (Clausi et al. 2014) is used to characterize the mood alteration in patients affected by cerebellar ataxia.
Moreover, the research is carried out by using specific experimental paradigms (e.g.: gambling tasks) to explore whether the cerebellum is involved in feelings subtending the decision-making processes