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News & Events ■ News ■ 2014 News

News 2014

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), an effective therapy for the recovery of stroke patients

The study "Contralesional rTMS Relieves visual extinction in chronic stroke" was published in the international journal Neuropsychologia. Authors: Sara Agosta, Florian Herpic, Gabriele Miceli, Francesco Ferraro e Lorella Battelli

Trento, August 18, 2014 - Researchers at the Istituto italiano di Tecnologia in Rovereto (Trento) have applied transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to patients where stroke affected brain regions deputies to the analysis of visual attentional, with the aim of reduce the chronic hyperactivation healthy hemisphere to elicit activity in the injured and promote recovery.

The results of this study were published in the international journal Neuropsychologia with the title "Contralesional rTMS Relieves visual extinction in chronic stroke." The research work stem from the need to help stroke patients recovering cognitive functions (in particular, sustained attention) that remain in deficit and profoundly debilitating even many months after the stroke. These deficits are often not detected by classical neuropsychological handbook, but in fact they are likely the cause of the inability of many patients to achieve a full recovery.

The results of the tests on patients show that after active stimulation (but not after fictitious stimulation) there is a significant improvement of the patients. These tests have proved to be extremely sensitive to the detection of chronic deficits of patients and confirmed their rehabilitation after treatment with transcranial magnetic stimulation. The improvement peaked at 30 minutes after the end of stimulation, providing valuable suggestions on the potential for cortical plasticity still present in patients actually considered chronic and stable.

All patients were subjected to two sessions of stimulation, an active one on the healthy hemisphere and a dummy one (placebo). The choice of stimulating the region contralateral to the lesion ictal therefore derives from the need to balance the two homologous areas of the brain that after stroke got unbalanced.

Recent theories of functional architecture of the attention functions in fact suggest that homologous areas in the two brain hemispheres, perform similar functions while maintaining a state of equilibrium. This balance is likely to be lost in the event of a unilateral lesion. A hemisphere becomes hypoactive (the one with the lesion), while the healthy becomes hyperactive (to compensate for the deficit of the injured). This imbalance of functions becomes chronic, depressing and preventing recovery.

Stroke is a disease that, in the world, every year affects more than 15 million people. It is estimated that in Italy every year there are more than 200,000 new cases with an outcome of severe disability. This is usually a permanent disability from approximately 6 months after the stroke, with serious consequences on the ability to return to lead a normal life.

Last Updated on Monday, 25 August 2014 08:26

Towards a new organizational model for IIT: the tenure track

In the light of the recommendations made by the IIT Evaluation Committee, which foresees a career path for scientists in line with international best practices (Tenure Track), the scientific structure of the IIT is set to change.

Tenure Track is based exclusively on external evaluations of candidates made by a panel of international experts (Standing Committee of External evaluators, SCEE) - 200 members approximately - whose task is to examine the candidates’ scientific production in a transparent and independent way.

Tenure Track lasts a maximum of 10 years, during which scientists are evaluated according to a range of basic principles:

  • International Call; selection with reference letters and interview with the International Panel; 
  • Entry levels (Tenure Track stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3) according  to candidates’ seniority  and equivalent  to academic positions such as assistant professor, associate professor and full professor; 
  • Entry, upgrades and final examinations based on letters of reference and interviews by external referees
  • Possibility to obtain tenured positions only for stage 2 and stage 3 candidates;
  • Maximum scientific and financial autonomy for  scientists under tenure track process;
  • Number of scientists under tenure track process at full capacity not higher than 15% of total  IIT staff;
  • Implementation of gender-specific policy (e.g. “stop the clock” policy for female scientists on maternity leave). 

All research projects are evaluated every three years while individual scientific and management skills are assessed annually.

After a initial phase, which started late in 2013, this Model will be fully implemented before the launch of the new 2015-2017 Scientific Plan currently under discussion.


Teams/Research Lines with independent budget

Robotics Brain and Cognitive Sciences - RBCS (G. Sandin, Director)

Speech and Communication (L. Fadiga – Senior Scientist)


Advanced Robotics - ADVR (D. Caldwell, Director)

Soft Hands (A. Bicchi - Senior Scientist)


Humanoids & Human Centered Mechatronics (N. Tsagarakis, tenured scientist)


iCub Facility (G. Metta, Director)

Humanoid Sensing and Perception
(L. Natale, Tenure Track Scientist)


Pattern Analysis and Computer Vision - PAVIS
(V. Murino, Director)

Visual Geometry and Modelling
(A. Del Bue - Tenure Track Scientist)


Neuroscience and Brain Technologies - NBT/NTECH
(J. Assad - Director)

Microtechnology for neuroelectronics (L. Berdondini, Tenure Track Scientist)


MicroRNAs in brain development and function
(D. De Pietri Tonelli, Tenure Track Scientist)


Genetics and epigenetics of behavior (V. Tucci, Tenure Track Scientist)


Optical approaches to brain function (T. Fellin, Tenure Track Scientist)


Genetics of cognitive function (F. Papaleo, Tenure Track Scientist)


Non-coding RNAs and RNA-based therapeutics (S. Gustincich, Senior Scientist)


Synaptic Neuroscience - NBT/NSYN
(F. Benfenati, Director)

Local micro-environment and brain development
(L. Cancedda, Tenure Track Scientist)


Synaptic plasticity of inhibitory networks (A. Barberis, Tenure Track Scientist)


Neuromodulation of cortical and subcortical circuits
(R. Tonini, Tenure Track Scientist)

Drug Discovery and Development: PharmaChemistry
(T. Bandiera, Director)

Intelligent Drug Delivery by nanoparticles
(T. Pellegrino, Tenure Track Scientist)


Nanotechnology for Precision Medicine (P. Decuzzi. Tenure Track Scientist)


Drug Discovery and Development Validation
(D.Piomelli, Director)

Compunet: Multiscale Computational Modeling Network
(A. Cavalli, Director)

Computational Modelling of NanoScale and bioPhysical systems
(W. Rocchia, Tenure Track Scientist)


NanoPhysics, Joint Nikon-IIT laboratory (A. Diaspro, Director)

Nano Carbon Materials (S. Giordani, Tenure Track Scientist)


Plasmon Nanotechnologies (F. De Angelis, Tenure Track Scientist)


Graphene Labs (V. Pellegrini, Tenured Scientist)


Multifunctional &Responsive Composites (A. Athanassiou, Tenured Scientist)


(L. Manna, Director)

Nanocrystal Photonics (I. Moreels, Tenure Track Scientist)


Lithium Batteries (B. Scrosati, Senior Scientist)


CNST@PoliMi; Center for Nano Science and Technology at Politecnico di Milano
(G. Lanzani, Center Coordinator)

Advanced Materials for Optoelectronics
(A. M. Petrozza, Tenure Track Scientist)


Printed and Molecular Electronics (M. Caironi, Tenure Track Scientist)


CGS@SEMM; Center for genomics Science at IFOM-IEO Milano
(B. Amati, Center Coordinator)


CSHR@PoliTo; Center for Space Human Robotics at Politecnico di Torino
(F. Pirri, Center Coordinator)


CNCS@UniTn; Center for Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems at University of Trento
(A. Bifone, Center Coordinator, Tenured Scientists)

Neural Computation (S. Panzeri, Tenured Scientist)


CMBR@SSSA; Center for MicroBio Robotics at Scuola Superiore S.Anna
(B. Mazzolai, Center Coordinator, Tenured Scientist)


BCMSC@UniPr; Brain center for Motoer and Social Cognition at University of Parma
(A.Rizzolatti, Center Coordinator)


CNI@NEST; Center for Nanotechnology Innovation at Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa
(V. Piazza, Center Coordinator)


CLNS@Sapienza; Center for Life-NanoScience at Roma La Sapienza
(G. Ruocco, Center Coordinator)


CABHC@CRIB; Center for Advanced Biomaterials for Health Care at University of Napoli-Federico II
(P. A. Netti , Center Coordinator)


CBN@UNILE; Center for Biomolecular Nanotechnologies at University of Lecce
(P. P. Pompa, Center Coordinator, Tenured Scientist)

Micro & Nano Fabrication (M. De Vittorio, Senior Scientist)


IIT@MIT; Outstation for Machine Learning at MIT - Cambridge USA


IIT@Harvard; Outstation for novel nanotech probes for brain studies at neurobiology Dept, Harvard University, Boston - USA

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 09:33

An easier way to turn plant scraps to plastics

bioplastics-300pxSave those food scraps – they could be your next grocery bag. A new way of turning vegetable waste directly into bioplastics could make such materials even more environmentally friendly.

Current bioplastics are created by processing plant material to create short molecules called monomers, which link up to create long polymer molecules that make up plastics. Although the resulting material is usually biodegradable, making it a greener alternative to regular plastic, the way it is produced has come under criticism. Making bioplastics takes multiple steps, requiring more energy, and often uses crops that could otherwise be used for food, like corn or potatoes, says Ilker Bayer at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genova, Italy.

There may now be a better way. Bayer and his colleagues were looking at the process for creating cellophane, which involves passing cellulose, the material that makes up plant cell walls, through multiple acid and alkali baths. They discovered that dissolving cellulose from cotton and hemp in trifluoroacetic acid, a common chemical, converted it directly from its naturally crystalline form to an amorphous form suitable for moulding into plastic without the need for any further processing.

Parsley plastic

Next they tried the process on vegetable waste products, including rice hulls, cocoa pod husks (see image, above right) and spinach and parsley stems from an Italian company that powders vegetables for use in vegetable drinks and coloured pasta.

"These are the parts we don't want to eat," says Bayer. They could all be easily converted into useful bioplastics, with different properties based on the starting material: rubbery for spinach, but firmer for rice hulls.

The new materials have a different combination of stiffness and stretchiness compared to both existing bioplastics and traditional plastics. They can also inherit the properties of the original plant, meaning parsley plastic could have antioxidant properties, or cinnamon plastic could be antibacterial.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 15:50

The winner of "Mettici la faccia" contest: Alessio Vierti, 19 years old and a passion for drawing and computer science.

The drawing contest "Mettici la faccia" launched by IIT in January 2014 has a winner: Alessio Vierti, 19 years old, a student at "Enrico Fermi" High School in Genoa. Alessio made the drawing of the face of the humanoid robot Coman. The face is round and coloured in blue and orange in order to "transmit humans a sense of confidence”. The drawing convinced the international group of scientists who are developing the robot. The prize for the student were 250 euros and a training course either in drawing or in English language after the summer.

Alessio Vierti has a passion for drawing and computer science, therefore in drawing the robot’s face he was able to combine the two. In the explanatory memorandum of his proposal Alessio wrote: "the humanoid robot CoMan is designed to be a useful resource for people in emergency situations, so I thought to give his face a look as much familiar and reassuring as possible", thus demonstrating a lot of attention to the interaction between humans and machines, which is a very important aspect in advanced robotics research. The proposed face has an ovoid shape and is blue in color, with a kind of semitransparent orange visor. The drawing will serve as a reference for scientists in the realization of the robot’s head.

 Alessio met some researchers working on the robot Coman: Darwin Caldwell, director of IIT Department of Advanced Robotics, Nikolaos Tsagarakis, IIT researcher responsible for the Coman project, Alessio Rocchi, PhD student at IIT (photo by A. Abrusci - IIT). Vierti, along with his brother and parents, had the opportunity to see the robot live, to touch it and watch it move, as well as discuss with researchers about his future university choices – has just taken his high school diploma.

"Mettici la faccia " is the competition organized by IIT with the aim of raising young people’s awareness of science and technology through an interdisciplinary approach by stimulating their skills, artistic feeling and analytical spirit when it comes to look at a real scientific object. The contest was open to high school students of the Province of Genoa. The contest web page:

Last Updated on Friday, 18 July 2014 17:02

SMARTCup Liguria 2014

Anche quest’anno si terrà la competizione tra idee imprenditoriali SMARTCup Liguria 2014. L’iniziativa sarà presentata in diversi incontri dal 21 al 29 luglio su tutto il territorio regionale, a Genova, La Spezia, Savona e Imperia.

SMARTCup Liguria 2014 è il concorso di idee imprenditoriali per stimolare la nascita di imprese innovative, organizzato da FI.L.S.E. su incarico della Regione ed in collaborazione con l’Università di Genova, il CNR, l’IIT, i Centri di Ricerca e tutti gli attori che concorrono allo sviluppo di impresa del territorio.

Le presentazioni saranno un momento utile per acquisire informazioni sullo svolgimento della competizione, mirata ad individuare e supportare nuove idee nate dalla ricerca, con la collaborazione di esperti d'impresa, investitori e professionisti partner dell'iniziativa. 

Per maggiori informazioni:

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 July 2014 10:43