Back to list

Laura Cancedda

Senior Researcher Tenured - Principal Investigator
Senior Researcher Tenured

Research Line

Local Micro-environment and Brain Development


IIT Central Research Lab Genova


Via Morego 30
+39 010 71781 521
+39 010 71781521
Contact Me


Laura Cancedda graduated in Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Genoa in 1999, with a thesis on the role of neurotrophic factors on neurotransmitter release. She received her Ph.D. in neurophysiology from Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa, Italy) in 2003, under the supervision of Dr. Lamberto Maffei. In Pisa, she investigated the molecular and environmental basis of experience-dependent plasticity in the rat brain. In 2003, she moved to University of California at Berkeley in Dr. Poo’s laboratory where she focused her studies on molecular mechanisms of GABAergic-transmission modulation. Starting in 2006, she has also started a collaboration on a project aimed at studying early determinants of neuronal polarization.

Currently, she holds a team-leader position at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genoa and a scientist position at the Telethon Dulbecco Institute. Laura is also a scholar of the FENS KAVLI network of excellence. Her research focuses on the role of extracellular factors such as GABA in neurogenesis, migration and morphological maturation of cortical neurons under physiological as well as pathological conditions.

Laura comes from a neurophysiological and neuropharmacological background. The techniques applied in her laboratory include, among others,in vitroelectrophysiology on brain slices and cell cultures,in vivotransfection of nucleic acids (in uteroelectroporation),in vitroandin vivopharmacology, immunohistochemistry, and confocal imaging. She also has experience in rodent behavioral testing.In addition to her technical expertise, Laura has substantial writing and editing experience.

Research/professional Experience

2016-        The Italian Institute of Technology, Genoa, Italy  Senior Researcher (Tenured)

2016-        Dulbecco Telethon Institute, Italy, Scientist

2013-2106  The Italian Institute of Technology, Genoa, Italy  Senior Team leader

2008-2013 The Italian Institute of Technology, Genoa, Italy  Team leader

2003-2007 University of California at Berkeley, USA Post doc. (Advisor: Poo MM)

2004          Chinese Academy of Sciences,Shanghai  visiting Fellow (Host: Yuan X)

2000-2003 Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy Graduate student (Advisor: Maffei L)

2000         Brain Institute RIKEN Wako-Shi, Japan  Visiting Fellow (Host: Hensch TK)

Professional Activities


2017   Advisor for the Neuroscience of Fondazione Pisana per la Scienza, Pisa, Italy

           Collaboration (with Dr. Vicari, Bambino Gesù Hospital, Rome) on a clinical trial for the treatment of cognitive impairment in individuals with Down Syndrome.

2016    Member of the FENS-KAVLI network of excellence

            Member of Ph.D. dissertation committee, Institut du Fer à Moulin, Paris

           Teacher of neurodevelopmental physiology at graduate students of the Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa 

2016         Scientific committee for the organization of the  DTI-TIGEM-TIGET meeting, Roma, Italy

                 Member of Ph.D. dissertation committee, Institut du Fer à Moulin, Paris

2015-2009 Member of Ph.D. dissertation committee at Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy (once/year)

2014    Guest editor for special issue of Frontiers in Neuroscience on “GABAergic system in CNS development and maldevelopment”

2012    Organizer of the symposium “Activity-dependent modifications of neuronal circuits: plasticity, adaptation and tenacity”, Italian Society of Neuroscience meeting, Italy

2011    Guest editor for special issue of Neural Plasticity on “GABAergic circuit development and its implication for CNS disorders”

2012    Member of dissertation Ph.D. committee Università degli Studi di Pisa, Italy

2004    Organizer of the “Neuro super group” meetings, U.C. Berkeley

Direct commissioned manuscript reviewer: Science, Nature Communications, Cell Reports, PNAS, Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Physiology, Scientific Reports, European Journal of Neuroscience, Hippocampus, Journal of Neurochemistry, Frontiers in Neuronal Circuits, Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, Frontiers in Pediatrics, Medical Research archives, Molecular Neurobiology, Brain Structure and Function, PLOS ONE, Journal of Neurochemistry, Developmental Neurobiology, Neuroscience, International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, OMICS, Molecular Genetics and Metabolism, Neural plasticity, International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, Neuroscience Letter, Neurochemistry international, World Journal of Surgical Oncology,  Bio- and Medical Informatics and Cybernetics (BMIC).

Grant reviewer:

National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S.; H2020- Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) OPEN, EU; FP7-ICT-2011-C (FET), EU; MRC, United Kingdom; French National Research Agency (ANR), France; Novel ideas for radically new technologies, Canada Foundation for Innovation Competition (CFI); Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), Netherlands; Irish Research Council (IRC); Seed project, IIT, Italy.

Editorial Board member: Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, PeerJ. 

Invited Speaker at National and International Meetings:


2018    Invited speaker at the symposium “Drug repurposing for treating genetic disorders” at the European Society of Human Genetics Conference 2018, Milan, Italy.

            Invited speaker at the symposium “Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders” at the 4th Neurological Disorders Summit, Los Angeles, California, USA

            Invited speaker at the Neural Circuit Development and Plasticity” school Utrecht, Nederland.

            Invited speaker at the “Autism Spectrum Disorders: developmental trajectories, neurobiological basis, treatment update” meeting, Siena, Italy.

2017    Invited speaker at the 19th International Neuroscience Winter Conference, Solden Austria

            Invited speaker at the 38th World Congress of the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS), Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.

            Invited speaker at the Telethon Convention, Riva del Garda, Italy

            Invited speaker at Neuronal Surfaceome in Circuit Formation meeting, Verbania, Italy

            Invited speaker at the The Future of Genetics in Medicine and beyond meeting, Torino, Italy.

            Invited speaker at Italian Society for Neuroscience (SINS) meeting, Ischia, Italy.

            Invited speaker at the symposium “Therapy for Down Syndrome: dreams or reality?”, Down Syndrome: from diagnosis to therapy Meeting, Napoli, Italy. 

2016    Invited speaker at the “Epilepsy and Neuronal Synchronization” Gordon Research Conference, Spain.

            Invited speaker at a mini-symposium at the Society for Neuroscience (SFN), San Diego, U.S.

            Invited speaker at the Federation of European Neurosciences Societies (FENS) meeting, Copenhagen, Denmark.

            Invited speaker at the symposium “Channelopathies”, meeting of the Società Italiana di Genetica Umana (SIGU), Torino, Italy.

            Invited speaker at the Telethon (TIGEM, TIGET, DTI) three-retreat, Rome, Italy.

2015    Invited speaker at the “Inhibition in the CNS” Gordon Research Conference, United States.

2014    Invited speaker and invited chair of the “Molecular Neuroscience" session at Neuronus meeting, Krakow, Poland.

2013    Invited speaker at the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (IEEE-EMBS) annual conference, Osaka, Japan.

2012    Invited speaker and invited chair of the at Jacques Monod conference “Mechanisms of intellectual disabilities: from genes to treatment”, Roscoff, France.

            Invited speaker Italian Society of Neuroscience (SINS) meeting, Italy.

            Selected for oral presentation at the meeting “Cell biology of the neuron: polarity, plasticity and regeneration”, Crete, Greece.

2011    Selected for oral presentation at the meeting “Wiring the brain: making connections”, Powerscout, Co Wikcklow, Ireland.

2010    Invited speaker at the symposium “Neuronal Development, Neurotransmission and Neurodegeneration”, Italian Society of Biochemistry (SIB) meeting.

            Invited speaker, “Plasticise” meeting, Pisa, Italy.

            Invited speaker, “NeuroIITScience”, Genoa, Italy.

2009    Invited speaker Minisymposium “Depolarizing GABA in development, maldevelopment and seizures: friend or foe?” Society for Neuroscience (SFN), 2009.

            The presentation was included in the “Hot Topic” database Neuroscience, 2009

             Invited speaker at the Symposium “Neurodevelopmental alterations leading to epilepsy”, Italian Society for Neuroscience (SINS).

2008    Invited speaker, Scientific Seminary Session, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy.

Selected for oral presentation, Molecular Mechanisms in Neuroscience meeting, Italian Society for Neuroscience (SINS), Milan, Italy.

Research Support 

2017-2022 European Research Council (ERC) advanced.   Rescuing Cognitive Deficits in Neurodevelopmental Disorders by Gene Editing in Brain Development: the Case of Down Syndrome (GenEdiDS).

 2016-2021  Telethon Foundation (Italy) Coordinator Targeting aberrant Cl- homeostasis and GABAA transmission to design innovative therapeutic approaches in Down syndrome. (Career grant.)

2014-2015  Lejeune Foundation (France)  PI  Experimental and clinical evaluation of a clinically-used Cl transporter inhibitor to rescue cognitive functions by reverting excitatory GABA in Down syndrome. 

2014-2017  Telethon Foundation PI Unravelling the Rett syndrome: effects of MeCP2 mutations on synaptic function.

2014-2016  Lejeune Foundation (France)  Co-PI Targeting neurotrophin signaling to rescue synaptic plasticity and cognitive functions in a mouse model of Down syndrome.

2014-2016   Cariplo Bank PI Phenotype characterization of PCDH19 mutations underlying “Epilepsy with Mental Retardation limited to Females” (EFMR) syndrome using in vitro and in vivo models.

2015            GOAP (Bayer, Germany) Co-PI Gene editing to treat genetic photoreceptor degeneration. 

2013-2015    Lejeune Foundation (France) Co-PI Safe modulation of GABAergic transmission by clinically-tested drugs to rescue cognitive functions in Ts65Dn mice.             

2013-2015    Interdisciplinary project IIT Coordinator Novel site-directed in utero electroporation by temporal modulation of a multi-electrode array.

2010-2014   Telethon Foundation PI Role of GABAA-receptor mutations in idiopatic generalized epilepsy and development.

2011-2013   Research Ministry  Consultant  In vivo and in vitro morpho functional analysis of neuronal populations in rodent models of Rett syndrome, the MeCP2 null mice and in animals transfected in utero with different forms of mutated MeCP2.

2009-2013 Compagnia di San Paolo Coordinator Early interference with GABA action by exposure to therapeutic drugs: circuit development, epilepsy and cognition.








The main goal of my laboratory is to understand the molecular determinants of cortical circuit development and wiring in physiology and pathology. In particular, I am interested in how extracellular factors and especially non-hyperpolarzing GABAergic signaling modulate neuronal migration, axon and dendrite formation, and neuronal connectivity.  In order to achieve this goal, we use a combination of in vivoand in vitro approaches ranging from electrophysiology and neuroanatomy to biochemistry and molecular biology.

Current laboratory members:

Mohit Rastogi (graduate student)

Ilias Ziogas (graduate student)

Maria Bolla (graduate student)

Annalisa Savardi (graduate student)

Bruno Pinto (graduate student)

Micol Alberti (graduate student, under Andrea Contestabile supervision)

Corinne Portioli (postdoc)

Giovanni Morelli (postdoc)

Salvatore Magara (postdoc)

Roberto Narducci (postdoc)

Marina Nanni (junior technician)

Andrea Contestabile (senior technician)


Former laboratory members:


Guillaume Bony (graduate student), currently at Neurocentre Magendie, Bordeaux; Andreas Frick Laboratory

 Ilaria Tamagno (junior post-doc), currently at Lerner Research Institute Cleveland Clinic.

Gabriele Deidda (graduate student), currently at Cardiff University (UK), Crunelli V lab

Laura Perlini (junior post doc), currently Journal Manager at Frontiers in Neurology and Frontiers in Psychiatry

Joanna Szczurkowska (graduate student), currently at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, CSHL (USA), Van Aelst L lab

Alessandro Alabastri   Postdoctoral fellow, currently at Rice University (U.S.A)

Francesco Gentile       Postdoctoral fellow currently assistant professor at Naples University  (Italy)

Ignacio Fernandez   (graduate student)


Andrzej Cwetsch (graduate student), currently at the Jacques Monod Institute, Paris, France

Shovan Naskar (graduate student), currently at the National Health Institute (NIH), US

Martina Parrini (graduate student), currently at Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel (Switzerland), Caroni P lab












Selected Publications

Research Publications

Last Author Research Publications:

Szczurkowska J, Pischedda F, Pinto B, Managò F, Haas CA, Summa M, Bertorelli R, Papaleo F, Schäfer MK, Piccoli G, Cancedda L (2018). NEGR1 and FGFR2 cooperatively regulate cortical development and core behaviours related to autism disorders in mice. Brain, Sep 1;141(9):2772-2794.

Szczurkowska J, Cwetsch AW, Dal Maschio M, Ghezzi D, Ratto GM, Cancedda L (2016). Targeted in vivo genetic manipulation of the mouse or rat brain by in utero electroporation with a triple-electrode probe. Nature Protocols,  Mar;11(3):399-412.


Deidda G,  Parrini M, Naskar S, Fernandez I, Contestabile A, Cancedda L (2015). Reversing excitatory GABAAR signaling restores synaptic plasticity and memory in a mouse model of Down Syndrome. Nature Medicine, 21(4):318-26.


Deidda G, Allegra M, Cerri C, Naskar S, Bony G, Zunino G, Bozzi Y, Caleo M, Cancedda L (2015). Early depolarizing GABA controls critical-period plasticity in the rat visual cortex. Nature Neuroscience, Jan;18(1):87-96.


Perlini L E, Szczurkowska J, Ballif B A, Sacchetti S, Piccini A, Giovedì S, Benfenati F, Cancedda L (2015). Synapsin III Acts Downstream of Semaphorin 3A/CDK5 Signaling to Regulate Radial Migration and Orientation of Pyramidal Neurons in Vivo. Cell Reports, in press.

Bony G, Szczurkowska J, Tamagno I, Shelly M, Contestabile A, Cancedda L (2013). Non hyperpolarizing GABAB receptor activation regulates neuronal migration and neurite growth and specification by cAMP/LKB1. Nature Communications, 4:1800.


Dal Maschio M, Ghezzi D, Bony G, Alabastri A, Deidda G, Brondi M, Sulis Sato S, Proietti Zaccaria R, Di Fabrizio E, Ratto GM, Cancedda L (2012). High-performance and Site-directed in Utero Electroporation by a Triple-electrode Probe. Nature Communications, 3:960.  





Modulators of intracellular chloride concentration for treating Down syndrome. Provisional: US 61/919,195, 2013. Patent application: WO 2015/091857A1, 2015. Patent issued: US 9,822,368, 2017 (expiring in 2035). Inventors: Cancedda L, Contestabile A, Ben-Ari Y.

Electroporation device, Patent application: TO2011A000411, WO2012153291, 2012. Inventors: Cancedda L, Ratto GM . License agreement with BEX, Co, LTD (Japan) for commercialization of the device. The device is currently on the market (BEX, cat. number LF653).

Methods and pharmaceutical composition for deducing the expression of NKCC1 in a subject of need thereof. Inventors: Mingozzi F, Ronzitti G, Cancedda L, Contestabile A. Patent application: EU17 305 434.7, 2017 .


Google Scholar









2017 Selected among the best 100 young Italian scientists operating in Italy or abroad (Cartaditalia magazine)

2016   Awarded the European Research Council (ERC) consolidator grant. 

           Appointed scholar of the FENS-KAVLI networkof excellence

           Young researcher award, memorial Mario Mai

2015    Appointed assistant scientist at the Dulbecco Telethon Institute, Italy

2014    TRADECOM society adopted Telethon Project on Rett syndrome for communication to the lay public.

2013    Mention of honor, poster award, Convention Telethon, Italy.

            Finalist at the scientific picture award “Beyond science”, Genova, Italy.

2011    Best poster award, Molecular Mechanisms in Neuroscience meeting, Rome, Italy.

2009    Young investigator award, Italian Society of Physiology (SIF), Italy.

2008    Best speaker award, Italian Society for Neuroscience (SINS), Milan, Italy.

2003    Ph.D. earned with Honors, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy.

2001    Travel award for participation to summer course “Structure, Function and Development of the Visual System”, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), U.S.A.

1999    Graduation with Honors and Distinction in Major, University of Genoa, Italy.

1997    Scholarship for extracurricular departmental activities, University of Genoa, Italy.


Various members of the laboratory have received awards and honors, including:


2018    Selected for flash talk presentation, EMBO Workshop: Microglia 2018. Heidelberg-Germany (Pinto B)

            Full scholarship for attending Summer school in Brain Disorders Research, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics. Cardiff, United Kingdom (Bolla M)

            Chronobiology and sleep medicine summer school (NDCN SCNi) Oxford (Bolla M)

2017    Winner of the Excellent Paper in Neuroscience Award (EPNA, 2016, Deidda G)  

            Selected for the FENS and IBRO-PERC stipend for attending the course Neural Circuit and Development Plasticity Course, Netherlands (Bolla M).

            Selected for oral presentation, Trisomy 21 Research Society (T21RS), Chicago United States (Contestabile A).

            Full scholarship for attending OIST DevNeuroCourse, Japan (Bolla M).

            Selected for nanosymposium presentation SFN meeting Washington, United States (Contestabile S).

2016    Travel grant 1st IN Ph.D. Student & Postdoc Meeting, Alicante, Spain (Cwetsch A).

            Full scholarship for attending OIST DevNeuroCourse, Japan (Savardi A).


2015    Selected for oral presentation EMBO meeting on Cortical Development (Szczurkowska J).

           Selected for oral presentation EMBO meeting on Cortical Development (Naskar S).

           Travel award to the Neuronus meeting Krakow, Poland (Naskar S).

           Selected for oral presentation, Neuronus meeting Krakow, Poland (Cwetsch A).

           Full scholarship for attending OIST DevNeuroCourse, Japan (Szczurkowska J).

2014    Best Poster Award, FENS-SFN Summer School, Bertinoro, Italy (Szczurkowska J).

           Full travel and lodging bursary, ISDN meeting, Montreal, Canada (Szczurkowska J).

           Selected for oral presentation & best presentation Neuronus meeting, Krakow, Poland (Szczurkowska J).

           Best oral presentation International Young Scientists Conference, Poland (Kopanska M).

           Scholarship, Neurobiology Summer School, SISSA, Trieste, Italy (Naskar S).

           Full scholarship for attending OIST DevNeuroCourse, Japan (Cwetsch A).

           Winner of the Art of Neuroscience competition, FENS meeting (Deidda G).

           Honorable Mention, Photomicrography Competition, Nikon (Dal Maschio M).

           Second classified at the Arte o Scienza contest, Trieste (Deidda G).

           Mention of honor,  picture award, Olympus Bioscapes competition (Szczurkowska J).

2013    Best poster award, Neurizons meeting, Germany (Szczurkowska J).

           Selected for oral presentation, best speaker award; ENCODS, Bordeaux, France (Szczurkowska J).

           Selected for oral presentation; ENCODS; Bordeaux, France (Deidda G).

           Mention of honor poster award, Telethon Convention, Italy (Szczurkowska J).

           Winner of European Project Practice in the Erasmus Program fellowship (Kopanska M).

           Third classified at the picture award IIT Photo contest (Deidda G).

           Finalist of the Photocontest Arte o Scienza; Trieste, Italy; 2013 (Szczurkowska J).

2011    Best poster award at the Molecular Mechanisms in Neuroscience meeting, Rome, Italy (Deidda G).

           Winner of European Project FP7 fellowship, Leonardo da Vinci Program (Szczurkowska J).

           Selected for oral presentation, Young Researchers in Physiology meeting, Italy (Bony G).







IIT's website uses the following types of cookies: browsing/session, analytics, functional and third party cookies. Users can choose whether or not to accept the use of cookies and access the website. By clicking on "Further Information", the full information notice on the types of cookies will be displayed and you will be able to choose whether or not to accept them whilst browsing on the website
Further Information
Accept and close

I numeri di IIT

L’Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) è una fondazione di diritto privato - cfr. determinazione Corte dei Conti 23/2015 “IIT è una fondazione da inquadrare fra gli organismi di diritto pubblico con la scelta di un modello di organizzazione di diritto privato per rispondere all’esigenza di assicurare procedure più snelle nella selezione non solo nell’ambito nazionale dei collaboratori, scienziati e ricercatori ”.

IIT è sotto la vigilanza del Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca e del Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze ed è stato istituito con la Legge 326/2003. La Fondazione ha l'obiettivo di promuovere l'eccellenza nella ricerca di base e in quella applicata e di favorire lo sviluppo del sistema economico nazionale. La costruzione dei laboratori iniziata nel 2006 si è conclusa nel 2009.

Lo staff complessivo di IIT conta circa 1440 persone. L’area scientifica è rappresentata da circa l’85% del personale. Il 45% dei ricercatori proviene dall’estero: di questi, il 29% è costituito da stranieri provenienti da oltre 50 Paesi e il 16% da italiani rientrati. Oggi il personale scientifico è composto da circa 60 principal investigators, circa 110 ricercatori e tecnologi di staff, circa 350 post doc, circa 500 studenti di dottorato e borsisti, circa 130 tecnici. Oltre 330 posti su 1400 creati su fondi esterni. Età media 34 anni. 41% donne / 59 % uomini.

Nel 2015 IIT ha ricevuto finanziamenti pubblici per circa 96 milioni di euro (80% del budget), conseguendo fondi esterni per 22 milioni di euro (20% budget) provenienti da 18 progetti europei17 finanziamenti da istituzioni nazionali e internazionali, circa 60 progetti industriali

La produzione di IIT ad oggi vanta circa 6990 pubblicazioni, oltre 130 finanziamenti Europei e 11 ERC, più di 350 domande di brevetto attive, oltre 12 start up costituite e altrettante in fase di lancio. Dal 2009 l’attività scientifica è stata ulteriormente rafforzata con la creazione di dieci centri di ricerca nel territorio nazionale (a Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) e internazionale (MIT ed Harvard negli USA) che, unitamente al Laboratorio Centrale di Genova, sviluppano i programmi di ricerca del piano scientifico 2015-2017.

IIT: the numbers

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) is a public research institute that adopts the organizational model of a private law foundation. IIT is overseen by Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca and Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze (the Italian Ministries of Education, Economy and Finance).  The Institute was set up according to Italian law 326/2003 with the objective of promoting excellence in basic and applied research andfostering Italy’s economic development. Construction of the Laboratories started in 2006 and finished in 2009.

IIT has an overall staff of about 1,440 people. The scientific staff covers about 85% of the total. Out of 45% of researchers coming from abroad 29% are foreigners coming from more than 50 countries and 16% are returned Italians. The scientific staff currently consists of approximately 60 Principal Investigators110 researchers and technologists350 post-docs and 500 PhD students and grant holders and 130 technicians. External funding has allowed the creation of more than 330 positions . The average age is 34 and the gender balance proportion  is 41% female against 59% male.

In 2015 IIT received 96 million euros in public funding (accounting for 80% of its budget) and obtained 22 million euros in external funding (accounting for 20% of its budget). External funding comes from 18 European Projects, other 17 national and international competitive projects and approximately 60 industrial projects.

So far IIT accounts for: about 6990 publications, more than 130 European grants and 11 ERC grants, more than 350 patents or patent applications12 up start-ups and as many  which are about to be launched. The Institute’s scientific activity has been further strengthened since 2009 with the establishment of 11 research nodes throughout Italy (Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) and abroad (MIT and Harvard University, USA), which, along with the Genoa-based Central Lab, implement the research programs included in the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan.