Optical Approaches to Brain Function

Optical Approaches to Brain Function

The research activity of the Optical Approaches to Brain Function Laboratory focuses on the study of brain microcircuits and on the development of innovative optical methods to probe their function. We investigate how the activity of individual cells contribute to network dynamics, in which way population activity is regulated by specific cellular subpopulations and how the dysregulation of these processes may lead to pathological states of the brain as, for example, epilepsy.

To achieve these goals, we use state-of-the-art approaches including cell type-specific optogenetic manipulations, patch-clamp recordings and two-photon microscopy in vivo and in brain slice preparation. Given that what we know about brain networks is limited by current methodologies, we also develop new and more accurate tools for the investigation of cortical microcircuits. We use liquid crystals spatial light modulators and digital micromirror arrays to illuminate cellular networks with complex spatiotemporal light patterns. We aim to combine these novel approaches with genetically-encoded molecules to probe and manipulate neuronal circuits with high spatial specificity.



The Optical Approaches to Brain Function Laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation for:

  • Imaging (two-photon scanning microscopes, high resolution microendoscopic probes and optical systems for recording the brain intrinsic signal)
  • Electrophysiology (dual-channel patch-clamp amplifiers and multichannel extracellular amplifiers)
  • Optogenetics (laser sources and optical devices for single- and two-photon patterned excitation)
  • Transgene expression (transgenic Cre-lox models and various gene delivery approaches)


  • Marie Skłodowka-Curie Research Fellowship Programme, Seal of Excellence, 2017-2019.
  • ERC consolidator grant, 2015-2020.
  • FET Flagship Human Brain Project (FLAG-ERA-JTC), 2015-2018.
  • Marie Skłodowka-Curie Research Fellowship Programme, 2016-2018.
  • NIH, BRAIN Inititative grant, 2014-2017.
  • FP7, DESIRE, 2013-2017.
  • Interdisciplinary/Interdepartmental project, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, 2014-2016.
  • Interdisciplinary/Interdepartmental project, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, 2013-2015.
  • Progetti di eccellenza, Fondazione Cariparo, 2012-2014.
  • Fondo Investimenti Ricerca di Base, Italian Ministry of Health, 2012-2015.
  • Genetic disease grant, Telethon Foundation, 2011-2014.
  • Program in Neuroscience grant, Compagnia di San Paolo, 2010-2013.


  • Dr. Stefano Panzeri, Center for Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Italy.
  • Dr. John Maunsell, Harvard University and University of Chicago, USA.
  • Dr. Mark Histed, NIH, USA.
  • Dr. Alberto Bacci, Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Epiniere, France.
  • Dr. Carlo Liberale, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia.
  • Dr. Giorgio Carmignoto, Dept of Biomed Sciences and Institute of Neuroscience, University of Padova, Italy.