RC 2013-2015

RICERCA CORRENTE 2013-2015

Project: Cognitive and sensory-motor control: predictive functions and consciousness 

This project aims to explore the causal role of cerebellar structures in sensory and higher-level cognitive processing. It has long been assumed that the cerebellum functions pertain to the motor domain only. However, increasing evidence suggests that the cerebellum may be critically involved in sensory and cognitive functions. Available evidence is mainly based over patients’ observations, neuroimaging studies and animal neurophysiology. However, neuroimaging evidence is mainly correlation, and patients’ findings present a inner high variability due to different size, etiology and extension of the lesions. Furthermore, although animal neurophysiology is certainly a critical model for  understanding human neurophysiology, comparative approaches always need caution. The aim of our research project is to use brain stimulation – both transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) – to directly affect ongoing cerebellar activity during sensory processing (visual and tactile) and during the execution of higher-level tasks, such as short-term memory and linguistic production. Brain stimulation allows to temporarily and reversibly interfere with neural activity in the targeted region, allowing to draw causal inferences on the specific functional role of that area for a specific task. So far, only a few studies have used brain stimulation to investigate cerebellar functions. Our project is thus innovative in its approach. Our findings will help achieving a better understanding of cerebellar functions, shedding light on the nature of sensory and cognitive deficits that may be observed in cerebellar patients and offering hints for rehabilitation.

Sub-projects currently ongoing:

  1. Organization and control of cerebellar synaptic plasticity and cerebellar network.
  2. Modeling of neural networks and cognitive functions.
  3. Implementation of analysis systems in neurophysiology for the study of sensory-motor and cognitive control.
  4. Cortical-cerebellar network regulation by Transcranial Magnetic Simulation (TMS).
  5. Brain network anatomical-functional analysis by fMRI and DTI.
  6. Cognitive and sensory-motor control: predictive functions and awareness.

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