Our Lab focuses on understanding the brain's self-repair capacity after injury, and developing novel therapeutic approaches based on electrical stimulation of neural tissue. We adopt a bottom up approach, starting from single cell optical manipulation, passing through the investigation of in vitro neuronal circuits, up to the study of novel stimulation protocols to be applied within in vivo cortico-cortical networks with the aim at promoting recovery after brain injury.
For this purpose I’ve been involved in an EC-funded project Brain Bow (http://www.brainbowproject.eu), focused on the development of technological tools for brain repair. Here I characterized the spontaneous and evoked activity of 2D finite-size networks grown on Multi Electrode Arrays (MEAs), before and after selective laser dissection of physical connections between neuronal sub-populations. This quantitative characterization of the lesion-induced changes in activity will allow for a reproducible injury model to possibly test innovative ‘brain-prostheses‘.
Due to the collaboration with the laboratory of Randolph Nudo at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KU Med), I moved from in vivo neural networks to in vivo animal models. In this framework our strategy is to use electrical stimulation of a neural tissue as a tool to guide the plasticity of the network following an injury. We are comparing different kinds of protocols in both open and closed-loop (in particular, activity dependent stimulation) in order to investigate whether or not the electrical stimulation can be used to potentiate functional connectivity between distant cortical locations in both healthy and injured (Stroke or Traumatic brain injury TBI) rat brains.
In 2012, Alberto Averna graduated in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Pavia (ITALY), with a thesis about Data mining techniques for the differentiation stage prediction of stem cells (IPSCs) from DNA microarrays data.
In July 2014, he was awarded a Master Degree in Bioengineering (Neuroengineering curriculum). Thesis: Study of modular neural network’s dynamics in both physiological and pathological condition.
In November 2014, he started the PhD in Neuroscience at Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Neuroscience and Brain Technologies Department).
From January to May 2015, he was trained in In Vivo ICMS and models of brain injuries at University of Kansas Medical Center (Ku Med)
From June to December 2016, he was trained in In Vivo ICMS and models of brain injuries at University of Kansas Medical Center (Ku Med)
From June to August 2017, he was trained in In Vivo ICMS and models of brain injuries at University of Kansas Medical Center (Ku Med)
From June to August 2018, he was trained in In Vivo ICMS and models of brain injuries at University of Kansas Medical Center (Ku Med)
Ph.D – Doctor Europaeus degree in Neuroscience - Curriculum Neuroscience and Neurotechnologies 2019
Università degli studi di Genova (Genova, Italy), Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT, Genova, Italy).
Ph.D. thesis: “Evaluating the impact of intracortical microstimulation on distant cortical brain regions for neuroprosthetic applications”. Advisor: Dr M. Chiappalone.
On November 2014 I started a four years fully funded Ph.D. program at IIT. During this period, I spent a total of 1 year and 1 month at the Kansas University Medical Center (Kansas City, KS, USA) in Dr. Nudo’s Cortical Plasticity lab. The entire project has been funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Collaboration (MAECI – Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Collaborazione Internazionale), directorate general for country promotion, as high-relevance bilateral project within the Italy-USA.
Master Degree 2014
EQF level 7
University of Genova, Genova (Italy)
"Studio della dinamica di reti modulari di neuroni in condizioni fisiologiche e patologiche"
("Study of modular neural network’s dynamics in both physiological and pathological condition")
Final grade (107/110), with worthiness of publication
This thesis is part of an European Project: BrainBow project (www.brainbowproject.eu), in which i attended the third Progress Meeting and Measuring Session held in Genova on October 07th-08th, 2013 and i contributed to achieve some of the results discussed at the second Review Meeting of BrainBow that was held at the University of Bordeaux on March 18th, 2014.
Bachelor Degree 2012
University of Pavia, Pavia (Italy)
"Tecniche di data mining per la predizione dello stadio di differenziamento di cellule staminali da dati di DNA microarrays"
Linking biological and artificial neuronal assemblies to restore lost brain functions: towards the design of innovative bi-directional neuroprostheses – BRAIN-BOW, European Union ‘FET Open Young Explorers’, Started February 1st, 2012. Total grant: 997’148.00€ (2012-2015). http://www.brainbowproject.eu/
Averna A.,Pasquale V., Murphy M., Rogantin MP., Van Acker G., Nudo R.J., Chiappalone M. and Guggenmos D. Differential effects of open- and closed-loop intracortical microstimulation on firing patterns of neurons in distant cortical areas. 2019, bioRxiv doi: 10.1101/534032
Buccelli S., Bornat Y., Colombi I., Ambroise M., Martines L., Pasquale V., Bisio M., Tessadori J., Nowak P., Grassia F., Averna A., Tedesco M., Bonifazi P., Difato F., Massobrio P., Levi T. and Chiappalone M. A neuroprosthetic system to restore neuronal communication in modular networks. 2019, bioRxiv 514836; doi: 10.1101/514836
Averna A., Guggenmos D., Pasquale V., Semprini M., Nudo R.J. and Chiappalone M. Neuroengineering Tools for Studying the Effect of Intracortical Microstimulation in Rodent Models. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society – July 17-21, 2018. Honolulu (HI), USA. Oral Presentation. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2018.8512915, 3076 3079.
Averna A., Pasquale V., Dunham C., Guggenmos D., Nudo R.J and Chiappalone M. Effects of intracortical microstimulation functional connectivity implications for neurorehabilitation studies.European Medical and Biological Engineering Conference (EMBEC) and the Nordic-Baltic Conference on Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics (NBC) – Tampere (Finland) June 11-15 2017. Oral Presentation
Best paper award is presented to: Alberto Averna et al., for the outstanding paper entitled: "Neurophysiology guided single cell optical surgery". 4° Joint Workshop on Computer/Robot Assisted Surgery. 14-16 October 2014 - Genoa, Italy.
Best Poster Certificate awarded to Alberto Averna for the poster titled "Evaluation of the effects of intra-cortical microstimulation on distant cortical brain regions: implications for neuro-rehabilitation studies". 7th Summer School of Neuroengineering. 18-22 June 2018 - Genoa, Italy.