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Luciano Fadiga

Senior Researcher - Principal Investigator - Center Coordinator

Research Line

Multiscale Brain Communication


CTNSC@UniFe Ferrara


Via Fossato di Mortara 17/19 - 44121 - Italy
+39 0532 455338
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Born in 1961.

M.D., University of Bologna, Ph.D. in Neuroscience, University of Parma.

Full Professor of Human Physiology at the University of Ferrara, Center Coordinator IIT@UNIFE

He has a long experience in electrophysiology and neurophysiology in monkeys (single neurons recordings) and humans (transcranial magnetic stimulation, study of spinal excitability, brain imaging, recording of single neurons in awake neurosurgery patients).


Among his contributions:

(1) The description of the functional properties of the monkey ventral premotor cortex where, together with his Parma colleagues, he discovered a class of neurons that respond both when the monkey performs actions and when it observes similar actions made by other individuals (mirror neurons). It has been suggested that these neurons unify perception and action and may contribute to others’ action understanding (Experimental Brian Research, 1992; Brain, 1996; Cognitive Brain Research, 1996).

(2) The first demonstration that a mirror system exists also in humans. He achieved this result by applying transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) on the hand motor cortex of human subjects while they were observing others’ actions. He demonstrated that the amplitude of observer’s hand muscle potentials, as evoked by TMS, was specifically and significantly modulated by the observed actions (Journal of Neurophysiology 1995).

(3) The demonstration that a similar motor resonance is activated during speech listening and involves tongue-related motor centres (European Journal of Neuroscience, 2002). He recently further demonstrates that this motor activation evoked by speech listening is functional to speech perception. This result shows for the first time a causal relationship between action representation and perception (Current Biology, 2009).

(4) The first demonstration that, in humans, the frontal area for speech production (Broca’s area) is almost constantly activated by action observation (by several brain imaging experiments carried out in collaboration with San Raffaele Hospital of Milan, USC and UCLA of Los Angeles, HUT of Helsinki, Juelich Brain Imaging Center, Royal Holloway University of London) (Experimental Brain Research 1996).

(5) The very recent demonstration that Broca’s area-activation reflects a primary role played by this area in pragmatically understanding actions of others (Brain, 2009). This finding opens new landscapes on the evolution of the human language.

(6) The study of peripersonal space representation in monkey premotor cortex (Journal of Neurophysiology, 1996; Science, 1997). According to these findings, premotor area F4 contains polimodal neurons (motor, somatosensory and visual) coding the peripersonal space in motor coordinates. This stream of research exerted influence on the understanding of human pathological signs such as the visuotactile extinction following parietal lesions.


Current activities:

 Luciano Fadiga is currently leading a group of researchers at the University of Ferrara, where he continues his research on monkey ventral premotor cortex (to elucidate the physiological mechanisms at the basis of mirror neurons visuomotor response) and on humans (by TMS and fMRI, to reveal the link between action representation and language). He coordinated a project on neuro-rehabilitation of stroke patients by action observation.

He is leading a group of researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology to investigate the possibility to establish hardware communication between the human brain and artificial device (cortical interfaces). He is actively involved in researches on human-human and human-robot interaction, from speech recognition to action understanding. Other fields of his research concern attention and its neural mechanisms in normal subjects and patients.

Luciano Fadiga is reviewer of many international journals in the field of Neuroscience and associated editor of some of them, he was principal investigator in CNR projects on reaching-grasping, he is actually responsible of  European Projects on action and speech recognition and control, he was co-investigator in Human Frontier Science Program and McDonnel-Pew funded projects, he published more than 80 peer-reviewed publications on international Journals. His work has received more than 35,000 citations (H-Index, 56).

Selected Publications

Main publications

Rembado, I., Castagnola, E., Turella, L., Ius, T., Budai, R., Ansaldo, A., Angotzi, G.N., Debertoldi, F., Ricci, D., Skrap, M., Fadiga, L. Independent Component Decomposition of Human Somatosensory Evoked Potentials Recorded by Micro-Electrocorticography (2017) International Journal of Neural Systems, 27 (4), art. no. 1650052, .


Montani, F., Oliynyk, A., Fadiga, L. Superlinear summation of information in premotor neuron pairs (2017) International Journal of Neural Systems, 27 (2), art. no. 1650009.


Vomero, M., Castagnola, E., Ciarpella, F., Maggiolini, E., Goshi, N., Zucchini, E., Carli, S., Fadiga, L., Kassegne, S., Ricci, D. Highly Stable Glassy Carbon Interfaces for Long-Term Neural Stimulation and Low-Noise Recording of Brain Activity (2017) Scientific Reports, 7, art. no. 40332, .

Vernon, D., Von Hofsten, C., Fadiga, L. Desiderata for developmental cognitive architectures (2016) Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures, 18, pp. 116-127.

Roncone, A., Hoffmann, M., Pattacini, U., Fadiga, L., Metta, G. Peripersonal space and margin of safety around the body: Learning visuo-tactile associations in a humanoid robot with artificial skin (2016) PLoS ONE, 11 (10), art. no. e0163713, .

Volpe, G., D’Ausilio, A., Badino, L., Camurri, A., Fadiga, L. Measuring social interaction in music ensembles (2016) Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 371 (1693), 8 p. Cited 2 times.

Badino, L., Canevari, C., Fadiga, L., Metta, G. Integrating articulatory data in deep neural network-based acoustic modeling (2016) Computer Speech and Language, 36, pp. 173-195.

Alamia, A., Solopchuk, O., D’Ausilio, A., Van Bever, V., Fadiga, L., Olivier, E., Zénon, A. Disruption of Broca’s area alters higher-order chunking processing during perceptual sequence learning (2016) Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 28 (3), pp. 402-417.

Cavallo, A., Lungu, O., Becchio, C., Ansuini, C., Rustichini, A., Fadiga, L. When gaze opens the channel for communication: Integrative role of IFG and MPFC (2015) NeuroImage, 119, pp. 63-69.

Maffongelli, L., Bartoli, E., Sammler, D., Kölsch, S., Campus, C., Olivier, E., Fadiga, L., D'Ausilio, A. Distinct brain signatures of content and structure violation during action observation (2015) Neuropsychologia, 75, pp. 30-39.

Fadiga, L., Tia, B., Viaro, R. Anatomy and Physiology of the Mirror Neuron System (2015) Brain Mapping: An Encyclopedic Reference, 2, pp. 411-416.

D'Ausilio, A., Novembre, G., Fadiga, L., Keller, P.E. What can music tell us about social interaction? (2015) Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19 (3), pp. 111-114.

Bartoli, E., D'Ausilio, A., Berry, J., Badino, L., Bever, T., Fadiga, L. Listener-speaker perceived distance predicts the degree of motor contribution to speech perception (2015) Cerebral Cortex, 25 (2), pp. 281-288.

D'Ausilio, A., Maffongelli, L., Bartoli, E., Campanella, M., Ferrari, E., Berry, J., Fadiga, L. Listening to speech recruits specific tongue motor synergies as revealed by transcranial magnetic stimulation and tissue-Doppler ultrasound imaging (2014) Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 369 (1644).

Bassolino, M., Campanella, M., Bove, M., Pozzo, T., Fadiga, L. Training the motor cortex by observing the actions of others during immobilization (2014) Cerebral Cortex, 24 (12), pp. 3268-3276.

Castagnola, E., Ansaldo, A., Maggiolini, E., Angotzi, G.N., Skrap, M., Ricci, D., Fadiga, L. Biologically compatible neural interface to safely couple nanocoated electrodes to the surface of the brain (2013) ACS Nano, 7 (5), pp. 3887-3895.

D'Ausilio, A., Bufalari, I., Salmas, P., Fadiga, L. The role of the motor system in discriminating normal and degraded speech sounds (2012) Cortex, 48 (7), pp. 882-887.

Vato, A., Semprini, M., Maggiolini, E., Szymanski, F.D., Fadiga, L., Panzeri, S., Mussa-Ivaldi, F.A. Shaping the dynamics of a bidirectional neural interface (2012) PLoS Computational Biology, 8 (7), art. no. e1002578.

D'Ausilio, A., Badino, L., Li, Y., Tokay, S., Craighero, L., Canto, R., Aloimonos, Y., Fadiga, L. Leadership in orchestra emerges from the causal relationships of movement kinematics (2012) PLoS ONE, 7 (5), art. no. e35757.

Baranauskas, G., Maggiolini, E., Vato, A., Angotzi, G., Bonfanti, A., Zambra, G., Spinelli, A., Fadiga, L. Origins of 1/f 2 scaling in the power spectrum of intracortical local field potential (2012) Journal of Neurophysiology, 107 (3), pp. 984-994.

Clerget, E., Poncin, W., Fadiga, L., Olivier, E. Role of Broca's area in implicit motor skill learning: Evidence from continuous theta-burst magnetic stimulation (2012) Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24 (1), pp. 80-92.

Baranauskas, G., Maggiolini, E., Castagnola, E., Ansaldo, A., Mazzoni, A., Angotzi, G.N., Vato, A., Ricci, D., Panzeri, S., Fadiga, L. Carbon nanotube composite coating of neural microelectrodes preferentially improves the multiunit signal-to-noise ratio (2011) Journal of Neural Engineering, 8 (6), art. no. 066013.

Castellini, C., Badino, L., Metta, G., Sandini, G., Tavella, M., Grimaldi, M., Fadiga, L. The use of phonetic motor invariants can improve automatic phoneme discrimination (2011) PLoS ONE, 6 (9), art. no. e24055.

Ansaldo, A., Castagnola, E., Maggiolini, E., Fadiga, L., Ricci, D. Superior electrochemical performance of carbon nanotubes directly grown on sharp microelectrodes (2011) ACS Nano, 5 (3), pp. 2206-2214.

Pulvermüller, F., Fadiga, L. Active perception: Sensorimotor circuits as a cortical basis for language (2010) Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 11 (5), pp. 351-360.


Alaerts, K., Senot, P., Swinnen, S.P., Craighero, L., Wenderoth, N., Fadiga, L. Force requirements of observed object lifting are encoded by the observer's motor system: A TMS study (2010) European Journal of Neuroscience, 31 (6), pp. 1144-1153.

Kotz, S.A., D'Ausilio, A., Raettig, T., Begliomini, C., Craighero, L., Fabbri-Destro, M., Zingales, C., Haggard, P., Fadiga, L. Lexicality drives audio-motor transformations in Broca's area (2010) Brain and Language, 112 (1), pp. 3-11.

Clerget, E., Winderickx, A., Fadiga, L., Olivier, E. Role of Broca's area in encoding sequential human actions: A virtual lesion study (2009) NeuroReport, 20 (16), pp. 1496-1499.

Ricciardi, E., Bonino, D., Sani, L., Vecchi, T., Guazzelli, M., Haxby, J.V., Fadiga, L., Pietrini, P. Do we really need vision? How blind people "see" the actions of others (2009) Journal of Neuroscience, 29 (31), pp. 9719-9724.

Fadiga, L., Craighero, L., D'Ausilio, A. Broca's area in language, action, and music (2009) Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1169, pp. 448-458.

Fazio, P., Cantagallo, A., Craighero, L., D'ausilio, A., Roy, A.C., Pozzo, T., Calzolari, F., Granieri, E., Fadiga, L. Encoding of human action in Broca's area (2009) Brain, 132 (7), pp. 1980-1988.

D'Ausilio, A., Pulvermüller, F., Salmas, P., Bufalari, I., Begliomini, C., Fadiga, L. The Motor Somatotopy of Speech Perception (2009) Current Biology, 19 (5), pp. 381-385.

Rochat, M.J., Serra, E., Fadiga, L., Gallese, V. The Evolution of Social Cognition: Goal Familiarity Shapes Monkeys' Action Understanding (2008) Current Biology, 18 (3), pp. 227-232.

De Lussanet, M.H.E., Fadiga, L., Michels, L., Seitz, R.J., Kleiser, R., Lappe, M. Interaction of visual hemifield and body view in biological motion perception (2008) European Journal of Neuroscience, 27 (2), pp. 514-522.

Olivier, E., Davare, M., Andres, M., Fadiga, L. Precision grasping in humans: from motor control to cognition (2007) Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 17 (6), pp. 644-648.

Craighero, L., Metta, G., Sandini, G., Fadiga, L. The mirror-neurons system: data and models (2007) Progress in Brain Research, 164, pp. 39-59.

Fadiga, L. Functional magnetic resonance imaging: Measuring versus estimating (2007) NeuroImage, 37 (4), pp. 1042-1044.

Fadiga, L., Craighero, L., Destro, M.F., Finos, L., Cotillon-Williams, N., Smith, A.T., Castiello, U. Language in shadow. (2006) Social neuroscience, 1 (2), pp. 77-89.

Fadiga, L., Craighero, L., Olivier, E. Human motor cortex excitability during the perception of others' action (2005) Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 15 (2), pp. 213-218.


Vargas, C.D., Olivier, E., Craighero, L., Fadiga, L., Duhamel, J.R., Sirigu, A. The influence of hand posture on corticospinal excitability during motor imagery: A transcranial magnetic stimulation study (2004) Cerebral Cortex, 14 (11), pp. 1200-1206.

Fadiga, L., Craighero, L. Electrophysiology of action representation (2004) Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology, 21 (3), pp. 157-169.

Craighero, L., Nascimben, M., Fadiga, L. Eye position affects orienting of visuospatial attention (2004) Current Biology, 14 (4), pp. 331-333.

Vandermeeren, Y., Bastings, E., Fadiga, L., Olivier, E. Long-latency motor evoked potentials in congenital hemiplegia (2003) Clinical Neurophysiology, 114 (10), pp. 1808-1818.

Fadiga, L., Craighero, L., Buccino, G., Rizzolatti, G. Speech listening specifically modulates the excitability of tongue muscles: A TMS study (2002) European Journal of Neuroscience, 15 (2), pp. 399-402.

Umiltà, M.A., Kohler, E., Gallese, V., Fogassi, L., Fadiga, L., Keysers, C., Rizzolatti, G. I know what you are doing: A neurophysiological study (2001) Neuron, 31 (1), pp. 155-165.


Fogassi, L., Gallese, V., Buccino, G., Craighero, L., Fadiga, L., Rizzolatti, G. Cortical mechanism for the visual guidance of hand grasping movements in the monkey: A reversible inactivation study (2001) Brain, 124 (3), pp. 571-586.

Buccino, G., Binkofski, F., Fink, G.R., Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V., Seitz, R.J., Zilles, K., Rizzolatti, G., Freund, H.-J. Action observation activates premotor and parietal areas in a somatotopic manner: An fMRI study (2001) European Journal of Neuroscience, 13 (2), pp. 400-404.

Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V., Rizzolatti, G. Visuomotor neurons: Ambiguity of the discharge or 'motor' perception? (2000) International Journal of Psychophysiology, 35 (2-3), pp. 165-177.

Rizzolatti, G., Fadiga, L. Grasping objects and grasping action meanings: The dual role of monkey rostroventral premotor cortex (area F5) (1998) Novartis Foundation Symposium, (218), pp. 81-103.

Murata, A., Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V., Raos, V., Rizzolatti, G. Object representation in the ventral premotor cortex (Area F5) of the monkey (1997) Journal of Neurophysiology, 78 (4), pp. 2226-2230.

Rizzolatti, G., Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V. The space around us (1997) Science, 277 (5323), pp. 190-91.

Fogassi, L., Gallese, V., Fadiga, L., Luppino, G., Matelli, M., Rizzolatti, G. Coding of peripersonal space in inferior premotor cortex (area F4) (1996) Journal of Neurophysiology, 76 (1), pp. 141-157.

Gallese, V., Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., Rizzolatti, G. Action recognition in the premotor cortex (1996) Brain, 119 (2), pp. 593-609.

Rizzolatti, G., Fadiga, L., Gallese, V., Fogassi, L. Premotor cortex and the recognition of motor actions (1996) Cognitive Brain Research, 3 (2), pp. 131-141.

Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., Pavesi, G., Rizzolatti, G. Motor facilitation during action observation: A magnetic stimulation study (1995) Journal of Neurophysiology, 73 (6), pp. 2608-2611.

di Pellegrino, G., Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V., Rizzolatti, G. Understanding motor events: a neurophysiological study (1992) Experimental Brain Research, 91 (1), pp. 176-180.

Perez, E., Zamboni, G., Amici, R., Fadiga, L., Parmeggiani, P.L. Ultradian and circadian changes in the cAMP concentration in the preoptic region of the rat (1991) Brain Research, 551 (1-2), pp. 132-135..

Amici, R., Fadiga, L., Perez, E., Zamboni, G., Parmeggiani, P.L. Relationship between cAMP concentration in anterior hypothalamic-preoptic region and the ultradian wake-sleep cycle (1990) Journal of the Autonomic Nervous System, 30 (SUPPL.).


Prize of the Italian Physiological Society

Onorary member of the Italian Society of Experimental Biology

Member of the Advisory Council of the Association for the Study of Attention and Performance

Member of StG SH4 ERC Panel (2009-2010)

Chair of StG and CoG SH4 ERC Panels (2010-2013)

Board of Editors of "Social Neuroscience"

Associated Editor of "PeerJ"



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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.