Research Areas and Methodologies

The Research Unit intends to investigate the neurophysiological processes underlying the complex interactions between the human nervous system and technological artifacts. Today, more and more often, man is an integral part of a complex artificial/biological binomial: examples are the interaction with computers, TVs and portable devices, with automatic devices (robots and wearable sensors) and, in a broader sense, with mechanical instruments and musical instruments. This reciprocity is even more evident in bionics, in the interaction of the patient with aids for disabilities (e.g. man-hand prosthesis) and in the interaction of the healthy subject with devices for enhancing his normal abilities ("Human augmentation" ).

In the neuroscientific field, this can overturn well-known concepts such as sensory feedback, motor control, cognitive abilities, biomechanics, learning, functional recovery. The Research Unit therefore has as its object of study not only man himself but today's man in the era of confluence with technology, both in its physiological and pathological manifestations. Furthermore, the Research Unit aims to investigate classic themes of systems neurophysiology (for example motor control or the constitution of body representation) using typical tools of the neuro approachingengineering such as modeling, objectification and automation.

The Unit is made up of doctors, ingengineers, biologists, psychologists and philosophers. Its multidisciplinary constitution allows it to reach practical application on the healthy subject and on the patient.

Main lines of research

  • Neurophysiology of the human/robotic limb system
    - Construction of the representation of the upper limb through sensory-motor integration processes; Integration in the body scheme ("embodiment") of the prosthesis, Plasticity in the basic amputee and following the use of prostheses; study of the same processes in healthy subjects controlling supernumerary robotic limbs.
  • Electrophysiology of prosthesis control and sensory feedback
    - Study of the neurophysiological correlates of phantom limb pain and of possible therapies based on the modulation of aberrant brain plasticity; study of the foreign body response to intraneural implantable electrodes and its inhibition.
  • Motor Control Modeling
    - Study and modeling of motor control strategies in children, healthy adults and patients with nervous system diseases; modeling of brain plasticity and interhemispheric interaction processes; computational modeling of post-stroke recovery; modeling of the motor symptoms of the patient with Parkinson's disease.
  • Development of automated platforms
    - Robot-assisted TMS: identification and automated maintenance of the site to be stimulated.
    - PD Meter: automatic evaluation of tremor, rigidity and bradykinesia even remotely.
    - Platforms for the evaluation and induction of prosthesis embodiment, performance and their neurophysiological correlates.
  • Analysis of Neurophysiological Signals
    - Classical analysis of ECG, EEG, EMG, MR, DTI, fMRI.
    - Innovative algorithms for the analysis of biomedical signals (sparse signal processing, connectivity, graph theory, …).
    - BCI and signal analysis for augmentation.
    - Computer Vision platforms for evaluating the performance of healthy subjects and patients in structured and unstructured environments.
    - Computer Vision systems for the design and development of Human-Machine Interfaces (HMI).
  • Immersive systems of Virtual and Augmented Reality
    - Virtual and Augmented Reality systems for the design and development of various applications with particular attention to innovative Man-Machine interfaces and BCI.
    - Generation of Virtual Reality interaction systems and dynamic scenes with graphics engines.

Collaborations with Other Research Centers

  • Sant'Anna High School, Pisa, Italy
  • Newcastle University, UK
  • University of Milan-Bicocca, Milan Italy
  • Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
  • University College of London, UK
  • University of Oxford, UK
  • University of Tubingen, Germany
  • Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
  • Imperial College of London, UK
  • Nanyang Technological University, Singaporeaffix
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
  • McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
  • Prosthesis Center Italian Workers' Compensation Authority (INAIL) Vigorso di Budrio, Italy
  • Sahgrenska University Hospital (Goterburg, Sweden)
  • San Camillo Hospital IRCCS (Venice, Italy)
  • ISTC-CNR
  • University Clinics of Vienna
  • Sorbonne University, France
  • Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany
  • Fundacion Tecnalia Research & Innovation, Spain