After receiving a master degree in Biotechnology at the University of Verona (Italy) in 1998, I joined the neuroscience centre of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a research-based pharmaceutical company based in Verona (Italy) and Harlow (UK). There I pioneered the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in rodents to describe the neural substrates modulated by pharmacological agents, a line of research that I also pursued to obtain a PhD degree in biomedical imaging with the University of Verona. During my years at GSK I took on roles of increasing responsibility, and developed a strong background in MRI, neurocomputation and neuropharmacology, as well as in the application of translational approaches to study neuropsychiatric brain disorders.
In 2010 I joined the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (first in Pisa, next in Rovereto), where I lead the Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory (https://www.iit.it/it/web/functional-neuroimaging). The lab is equipped with a 7 Tesla small-animal MRI scanner for in vivo imaging. During my research activity, I have described the circuital substrates modulated by centrally-active pharmacological agents in multiple areas of experimental neuroscience (e.g. schizophrenia, depression, drug addiction etc.) and identified functional and structural alterations in different rodent models of brain pathology. More recently, I established methods to map functional connectivity in the mouse brain and to perturb it with cell-type specificity (chemogenetic-fMRI), laying the foundations of a novel field of translational research that is now pursued by an increasing number of laboratories.
Our investigations of the mouse functional connectome have identified mouse homologues of the human default-mode (DMN) and salience networks, allowing to characterize signatures of disrupted connectivity associated to several autism-risk genes. My current research is primarily focused on the investigation of the functional architecture of the mammalian brain at the macroscale, using the mouse as a physiologically-accessible model organism. Leveraging funding from the European Research Council (ERC, #Disconn), we are currently using perturbational approaches (i.e. chemogenetics, optogenetics, genetic conditioning) to investigate the elusive neural basis of connectivity disruption in developmental disorders such as autism, or schizophrenia. A major goal of our research is to use functional network systems as a novel translational language that can be related to cognitive processes and neuropathological traits across-species.