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Tommaso Fellin Write a Message

Senior Researcher Tenured


Via Morego 30
+39 010 71781 549


Tommaso Fellin graduated in Physics at the University of Padova in 1998 studying enzyme kinetics with time-resolved spectroscopy. From 1998 to 2003, as a PhD student in the Dept. of Biomedical Sciences at University of Padova, he investigated the biophysical properties of voltage-gated calcium channels and the functional consequences of mutations in calcium channels linked to human neurological disorders. During his first postdoctoral training period (2003-2004), he integrated electrophysiological and imaging techniques to study neuron-glia communication in brain slices. In 2005 he moved to the Dept. of Neuroscience at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine as a senior post doctoral researcher and continued his research on neuron-glia interaction. In 2008, he joined the department of Neuroscience and Brain Technologies at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) as a junior team leader. He is currently senior team leader with tenure at the IIT, head of the Optical Approaches to Brain Function Laboratory, and co-head (together with Dr. S. Panzeri) of the Neural Coding Laboratory. He is also recipient of the European Research Council (ERC) consolidator grant NEURO-PATTERNS and co-funder of the start-up SmartMicroOptics.


The research activity of my laboratory focuses on the study of cortical microcircuits and on the development of innovative methods to probe their function. Using mainly the mouse neocortex as a model system, we are interested in understanding the mechanisms through which information is processed at the level of the individual elements of brain circuits including neurons, interneurons and glial cells. We investigate how the activity of individual cellular elements 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 are also developing new and more accurate tools for the investigation of cortical microcircuits. We are using patterned illumination by means of liquid crystals spatial light modulators and digital micromirror technology to illuminate cellular networks with high spatial and temporal resolutions. We aim to combine these novel approaches with genetically-encoded molecules to probe and manipulate neuronal circuits with high spatial specificity.

Lab members:

  • Noemi Binini, post doc
  • Serena Bovetti, post doc
  • Marco Brondi, post doc
  • Sebastiano Curreli, post doc
  • Claudio Moretti, post doc
  • Valentina Pasquale, post doc
  • Dania Vecchia, post doc
  • Stefano Zucca, post doc
  • Angelo Forli, PhD student
  • Andrea Sattin, PhD student
  • Stefano Varani, PhD student
  • Francesco Nespoli, undergraduate student

Lab alumni:

  • Andrea Antonini, CEO SmartMicroOptics, Genova
  • Riccardo Beltramo, Scanziani Lab, Dept. of Biology, UCSD, San Diego
  • Marco Dal Maschio, Baier Lab, Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Munich
  • Angela Michela De Stasi, Bacci Lab, Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Epinière, Paris
  • Giulia D'Urso, Stoop Lab, Centre for Psychiatric Neurosciences, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne
  • Pasqualina Farisello, Martinoia Lab, Dept. of Bioengineering, University of Genova, Genova

Selected Publications


IIT publications

1) Zucca S., D'Urso G., Pasquale V., Vecchia D., Pica G., Bovetti S., Moretti C., Varani S., Molano-Mazon M., Chiappalone M., Panzeri S., Fellin T. "An inhibitory gate for state transition in cortex" eLife (2017) 6: e26177.

2) Panzeri S., Harvey C.D., Piasini E., Latham P.E., Fellin T. "Cracking the neural code for sensory perception by combining statistics, intervention and behavior" Neuron (2017) 93: 491-507.

3) Bovetti S., Moretti C., Zucca S., Dal Maschio M., Bonifazi P., Fellin T. "Simultaneous high-speed imaging and optogenetic inhibition in the intact mouse brain" Scientific Reports (2017) 7: 40041.

4) Moretti C., Antonini A., Bovetti S., Liberale C., Fellin T. "Scanless functional imaging of hippocampal networks using patterned two-photon illumination through GRIN lenses" Biomedical Optics Express (2016) 7: 3958-3967.

5) De Stasi A.M., Farisello P., Marcon I., Cavallari S., Forli A., Vecchia D., Losi G., Mantegazza M., Panzeri S., Carmignoto G., Bacci A., Fellin T. "Unaltered network activity and interneuronal firing during spontaneous cortical dynamics in vivo in a mouse model of Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy" Cerebral Cortex (2016) 26:1778-94.

6) Sessolo M., Marcon I., Bovetti S., Losi G., Cammarota M., Ratto G.M., Fellin T.*, Carmignoto G.* "Parvalbumin-positive inhibitory interneurons oppose propagation but favor generation of focal epileptiform activity" Journal of Neuroscience (2015) 35:9544-9557.

7) Bovetti S., Fellin T.Optical dissection of brain circuits with patterned illumination through the phase modulation of lightJournal of Neuroscience Methods (2015) 241: 66-77.

8) Antonini A., Liberale C., Fellin T.Fluorescent layers for characterization of sectioning microscopy with coverslip-uncorrected and water immersion objectivesOptics Express (2014) 22: 14293–14304.

9) Bovetti S., Moretti C., Fellin T.Mapping brain circuit function in vivo using two-photon fluorescence microscopyMicroscopy Research and Techniques (2014) 77: 492-501.

10) Beltramo R., D’Urso G., Dal Maschio M., Farisello P., Bovetti S., Clovis Y., Lassi G., Tucci V., De Pietri Tonelli D., Fellin T.Layer-specific excitatory circuits differentially control recurrent network dynamics in the neocortexNature Neuroscience (2013) 16(2):227-34.

11) FellinT., Ellenbogen J.M., De Pittà M., Ben-Jacob E., Halassa M.M. “Astrocyte regulation of sleep circuits: experimental and modeling perspectivesFront. Compt. Neurosci. (2012) 6: 65. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2012.00065.

12) Dal Maschio M., Difato F., De Stasi A.M., Beltramo R., Blau A., Fellin T.Optical investigation of brain networks using structured illumination” in Cellular Imaging Techniques for Neuroscience and Beyond (2012), Elsevier.

13) Dal Maschio M., Beltramo R., A. De Stasi., Fellin T.Two-photon calcium imaging in the intact brain” Adv. Exp. Med. Biol. (2012) 740:83-102.

14) Difato F., Dal Maschio M., Beltramo R., Blau A., Benfenati F., Fellin T.Spatial light modulators for complex spatio-temporal illumination of neuronal networks” in Neuronal Network Analysis: concepts and experimental approaches (2012), Neuromethods book series, Springer.

15) Dal Maschio M., De Stasi A.M., Benfenati F., Fellin T.Three dimensional in vivo scanning microscopy with inertia-free focus controlOptics Letters (2011) 36:3503-05.

16) Difato F., Dal Maschio M., Marconi E., Ronzitti G., Maccione A., Fellin T., Berdondini L., Chieregatti E., Benfenati F., Blau A. "Combined optical tweezers and laser dissector for controlled ablation of functional connections in neural networks" J. Biom. Optics (2011) 16: 051306.

17) Deng Q, Terunuma M, Fellin T, Moss SJ, Haydon PG ”Astrocytic activation of A1 receptors regulates the surface expression of NMDA receptors through a Src kinase dependent pathwayGlia (2011) 59:1084-93.

18) Dal Maschio M., Difato F., Beltramo R., Blau A., Benfenati F., Fellin T. ”Simultaneous two-photon imaging and photo-stimulation with structured light illuminationOptics Express (2010) 18:18720-18731.

19) Halassa M.M., Dal Maschio M., Beltramo R., Haydon P.G., Benfenati F., Fellin T.Integrated Brain Circuits: neuron-astrocyte interaction in sleep-related rhythmogenesisScientificWorldJournal (2010) 10:1634-1645.

20) Fellin T., Halassa M., Terunuma M., Succol F., Takano H., Frank M.G., Moss S.J., Haydon P.G. “Endogenous non neuronal modulators of synaptic transmission control cortical slow oscillations in vivoPNAS (2009) 106:15037-42.

21) Halassa M., Fellin T., Haydon P.G. “Tripartite synapse: roles of astrocytic purines in the control of synaptic physiology and behaviorNeuropharmacology (2009), 57:343-6.

22) D’Ascenzo M., Podda M.V., Fellin T., Azzena G.B., Haydon P.G., Grassi C. “Activation of mGluR5 induces spike afterdepolarization and enhanced excitability in medium spiny neurons of the nucleus accumbens by modulating persistent Na+ currentsJournal of Physiology (2009), 587:3233-3250.

23) Dityatev A., Fellin T. Extracellular matrix in plasticity and epileptogenesisNeuron Glia Biology (2009), June 5:1-13.

24) Fellin T.Communication between neurons and astrocytes: relevance to the modulation of synaptic and network activityJournal of Neurochemistry (2009) 108:533-544.


Edited books

- Fellin T., Halassa M.M. (2012) “Neuronal network analysis: concepts and experimental approaches”, Neuromethods Book Series, Springer.


Previous publications

25) Halassa M., Florian C., Fellin T., Munoz J.R., Lee S.Y., Abel T., Haydon P.G., Frank M. “Astrocytic adenosine controls sleep homeostasis and cognitive consequences of sleep lossNeuron (2009) 61:213-219.

26) FellinT., D’AscenzoM., HaydonP.G.Astrocytes control neuronal excitability in the nucleus accumbens”  ScientificWorldJournal (2007) 7:89-97.

27) Ding S.*, Fellin T.*, Zhu Y.*, Lee S.Y., Auberson Y.P., Meany D., Coulter D.A., Carmignoto G., Haydon P.G. Enhanced astrocytic Ca2+ signals contribute to neuronal excitotoxicity after status epilepticus” Journal of Neuroscience (2007) 27(40):10674-84.

28) Halassa M.*, Fellin T.*, Takano H., Dong J.H., Haydon P.G. “Synaptic islands defined by the territory of a single astrocyteJournal of Neuroscience (2007) 27(24):6473-6477.

29) Halassa M., Fellin T., Haydon P.G. “The Tripartite Synapse: Roles for Gliotransmission in Health and DiseaseTrends in Molecular Medicine (2007) 13(2):54-63.

30) D’Ascenzo  M.*, Fellin T.*, Terunuma M., Revilla-Sanchez R., Meany D., Auberson Y.P., Moss S.J., Haydon P.G. “mGluR5 stimulates gliotransmission in the nucleus accumbens” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (2007) 104(6):1995-2000.

31) Fellin T., Gomez-Gonzalo M., Gobbo S., Carmignoto G., Haydon P.G. “Astrocytic glutamate is not necessary for the generation of epileptiform neuronal activity in hippocampal slices” Journal of Neuroscience (2006) 26:9312-9322.

32) Fellin T., Sul JY, D’Ascenzo M, Takano H, Pascual O, Haydon PG. “Bidirectional astrocyte-to-neuron communication: the many roles of glutamate and ATP.Novartis Found Symp (2006) 276:208-217.

33) Fellin T., Pascual O, Haydon PG. “Astrocytes coordinate synaptic networks: balanced excitation and inhibitionPhysiology (2006) 21:208-215.

34) Carmignoto G., Fellin T. “Glutamate release from astrocytes as a non-synaptic mechanism for neuronal synchronization in the hippocampus.” J. Physiol. Paris (2006) 99(2-3):98-102.

35) Fellin T., Pozzan T., Carmignoto G. “Purinergic receptors mediate two distinct glutamate release pathways in hippocampal astrocytes.” J Biol Chem. (2006) 281(7):4274-84.

36) Fellin T., Haydon PG. “Do astrocytes provide excitation underlying seizures?” Trends in Molecular Medicine (2005) 11(12):530-3.

37) A. Tottene, F. Pivotto, T.Fellin, T. Cesetti, A.M. van den Maagdenberg, D. Pietrobon. “Specific Kinetic Alterations of Human CaV2.1 Calcium Channels Produced by Mutation S218L Causing Familial Hemiplegic Migraine and Delayed Cerebral Edema and Coma after Minor Head Trauma.” J. Biol. Chem. (2005) 280(18):17678-86.

38) Fellin T., Luvisetto S., Spagnolo M., Pietrobon D. “Modal Gating of Human CaV2.1 (P/Q-type) Calcium Channels: II. The b Mode and Reversible Uncoupling of Inactivation”.J. Gen. Physiol. (2004), 124: 463-474.

39) Luvisetto S., Fellin T., Spagnolo M., Hivert B., Brust P.F., Harpold M.M, Stauderman K.A., Williams M.E., Pietrobon D. “Modal Gating of Human CaV2.1 (P/Q-type) Calcium Channels: I. The Slow and the Fast Gating Modes and their Modulation by Beta Subunits“. J. Gen. Physiol. (2004), 124: 445-461.

40) Fellin T., Pascual O., Gobbo S., Pozzan T., Haydon P.G., Carmignoto G. Neuronal synchrony mediated by astrocytic glutamate through activation of extrasynaptic NMDA receptors. Neuron (2004), 43: 729-743.

41) Fellin T, Carmignoto G. “Neuron-to-astrocyte signaling in the brain represents a distinct multifunctional unit”. J Physiol. (2004), 559: 3-15.

42)  Zonta M, Sebelin A, Gobbo S, Fellin T, Pozzan T, Carmignoto G. “Glutamate-mediated cytosolic calcium oscillations regulate a pulsatile prostaglandin release from cultured rat astrocytes”. J Physiol. (2003), 553.2: 407-414.

43) A. Tottene*, T.Fellin*, S. Pagnutti, S. Luvisetto, J. Striessnig, C. Fletcher, D. Pietrobon; “Familial Hemiplegic Migraine Mutations increase Ca2+ influx through single human CaV2.1 channels and decrease maximal current density in neurons”. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (2002), 99(20):13284-13289.

44) S. Guida, F. Trettel, S. Pagnutti, E. Mantuano, A. Tottene, L. Veneziano, T. Fellin, M. Spadaro, K.A. Stauderman, M.E. Williams, S. Volsen, R. Ophoff, R.R. Frants, C. Jodice, M. Frontali, D. Pietrobon; ”Complete Loss of P/Q Calcium Channel Activity Caused by a CACNA1A Missense Mutation Carried by Episodic Ataxia Type 2 Patients”. American Journal of Human Genetics (2001), 68: 759-764.





  • Marie Skłodowka-Curie Research Fellowship Programme, Seal of Excellence, 2017-2019.
  • 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.







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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.