Neuroscience of consciousness

From different angles, we are all passionate about the understanding of our conscious experience and the neural processes underneath such intimate phenomenon. Studying consciousness is not only about defining the object of study, but identifying the observer and decoding their viewpoint. The resolution of the mind-body problem since its early conceptions in theology and philosophy to its modern formulations in psychology and neuroscience remains a major scientific and societal challenge.
Broad scope of our research activity is contributing to, by actively shaping, this exciting field of study.

Vincenzo Romei

Director

Vincenzo Romei

the Team

Professor

Caterina Bertini

I am an associate Professor at the Department of Psychology, University of Bologna.

My research investigates the cognitive mechanisms and the neural correlates of visual perception, visuo-spatial attention and spatial representation both in neurologically intact individuals and patients with brain damage. My current primary interest is on the mechanisms mediating awareness in visual perception in patients with visual field defects. I am also focused on functional recovery and rehabilitation of visual disorders. To this aim, I use behavioural, neuropsychological and electrophysiological research methods.

My work is supported by projects grants from the Italian Ministry of Scientific Research and Education (MIUR).

Làdavas E, Tosatto L, Bertini C. Behavioural and functional changes in neglect after multisensory stimulation. Neuropsychol Rehabil. 2020 Jun 30:1-28. doi: 10.1080/09602011.2020.1786411. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32602783.

Bertini C, Starita F, Passamonti C, Santoro F, Zamponi N, Michelucci R, Scarpazza C. Fear-specific enhancement of tactile perception is disrupted after amygdala lesion. J Neuropsychol. 2020 Mar;14(1):165-182. doi: 10.1111/jnp.12178. Epub 2019 Feb 4. PMID: 30714317.

Grasso PA, Pietrelli M, Zanon M, Làdavas E, Bertini C. Alpha oscillations reveal implicit visual processing of motion in hemianopia. Cortex. 2020 Jan;122:81-96. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2018.08.009. Epub 2018 Aug 27. PMID: 30245199.

Pietrelli M, Zanon M, Làdavas E, Grasso PA, Romei V, Bertini C. Posterior brain lesions selectively alter alpha oscillatory activity and predict visual performance in hemianopic patients. Cortex. 2019 Dec;121:347-361. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2019.09.008. Epub 2019 Oct 4. PMID: 31675675.

Bertini C, Cecere R, Làdavas E. Unseen fearful faces facilitate visual discrimination in the intact field. Neuropsychologia. 2019 May;128:58-64. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.07.029. Epub 2017 Jul 25. PMID: 28754489.

Bertini C, Pietrelli M, Braghittoni D, Làdavas E. Pulvinar Lesions Disrupt Fear-Related Implicit Visual Processing in Hemianopic Patients. Front Psychol. 2018 Nov 22;9:2329. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02329. PMID: 30524351; PMCID: PMC6261973.

Borhani K, Làdavas E, Maier ME, Avenanti A, Bertini C. Emotional and movement-related body postures modulate visual processing. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2015 Aug;10(8):1092-101. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsu167. Epub 2015 Jan 1. PMID: 25556213; PMCID: PMC4526487.

Clinical Researcher

Francesco Di Gregorio

I got my M.S. in Neuroscience and Neuropsychology at the University of Bologna. Then I moved to Germany for my PhD at the University of Eichstätt-Ingolstand. In Germany, my research focused on electrophysiological correlates of error processing and conscious error awareness.

After my PhD I moved back to Italy at the University of Bologna where I started my collaboration with Prof. Vincenzo Romei. Our research focused on the study of oscillatory activity and EEG-based connectivity in conscious visual perception, attention and in at-risk populations, such as persons with accentuated schizotypy traits.

Currently, I am a clinical researcher at the AUSL of Bologna, where I am carrying out research activities in neurorehabilitation with stroke and traumatic brain injury patients. Moreover, I am part of a research team that studies electrophysiological and structural measures of brain connectivity in severe acquired brain injury and disorders of consciousness.    

Di Gregorio F., Steinhauser M., Maier M.E. (2015) Error-related brain activity predicts conscious classification of different error types. TeaP 2015, Hildesheim.

Di Gregorio F., Maier M.E., Steinhauser M. (2016) Does the Feeling of Error Detection emerge already before the Response?  TeaP 2016, Heidelberg.

Di Gregorio F., Maier M.E., Steinhauser M. (2018). Independent systems in human performance monitoring: evidence from error-related brain activity. SINP 2018, Palermo.

P224 Trajkovic J., Di Luzio P., Roperti C., Mercantoni E., Di Gregorio F., Romei V. Tuning alpha rhythms to shape conscious visual perception. Clinical Neurophysiology 131(4), e140e141.

P220 Trajkovic J., Di Gregorio F., Roperti C., Romei V. Pre-stimulus alpha frequency predicts the latency of visual evoked P1 component. Clinical Neurophysiology 131(4), e143-e144.

Di Gregorio F., Trajkovic J., Roperti C., Romei V. Electrophysiological and cognitive asymmetries underlying schizotypy. Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) 2019, 9-13 june, Rome, Italy.

Di Gregorio F., Casanova E., Petrone V., Bonora R., Ercolino M.G., Mongardi S; Ridolfi A., Simoni C., Leo M.R., Magni E., Ferri D., Provenzale C., Di Santantonio A., La Porta F., Piperno R. La Stimolazione Magnetica Transcranica ripetitiva abbinata al visual scanning riduce i sintomi cognitivi e lo squilibrio interemisferico nella Negligenza spaziale unilaterale sinistra dopo Ictus. SIRN, 2020, Napoli.

 

Maier M.E.; Di Gregorio F.; Muricchio T.; Di Pellegrino G. (2015), Impaired rapid error monitoring but intact error signaling following rostral anterior cingulate cortex lesions in humans. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 9:339 doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00339

Di Gregorio F.; Steinhauser M.; Maier ME. (2016), Error-related brain activity and error awareness in an error classification paradigm. Neuroimage 139: 202-210

Di Gregorio, F., Maier, M. E., & Steinhauser, M. (2018). Errors can elicit an error positivity in the absence of an error negativity: Evidence for independent systems of human error monitoring. NeuroImage, 172(January), 427–436.

Di Gregorio F, Ernst B, Steinhauser M. Differential effects of instructed and objective feedback reliability on feedback‐related brain activity. Psychophysiology. 2019:e13399. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13399

Di Gregorio, F., Maier, M. E., & Steinhauser, M. (2020). Are errors detected before they occur? Early error sensations revealed by metacognitive judgments on the timing of error awareness. Consciousness and Cognition, 77, 102857.

Research Fellow

Joaquín Macedo-Pascual

PhD student in Psychology and Neuroscience at Complutense University of Madrid and research internship at University of Bologna. BSc in Psychology, MSc in Neuroscience and postgraduate degree in Scientific Communication. My fields of research and interest are cognitive neuroscience and neurophysiology, specifically electroencephalography, transcranial magnetic stimulation, working memory, attention and perception. The projects I am currently working on are “Oscillatory mechanisms of attentional processes in working memory” and “Boosting Working Memory capacity by strengthening the oscillatory functional fronto-parietal pathway”.

Macedo-Pascual, J. (2019) Oscillatory correlates of prioritization of emotional stimuli in WM: the interaction between bottom-up and top-down processes [Conference presentation]. PhDay 2019 Psicología, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain.

Macedo-Pascual, J., Hinojosa, J. A., y Poch, C. (2019). Oscillatory correlates of prioritization of emotional stimuli in WM: the interaction between bottom-up and top-down processes. Biological Psychology, 145, 167–173. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.BIOPSYCHO.2019.05.005

Macedo-Pascual, J. (2016). Efectos de la externalización de la memoria mediante la interacción social. PsicoEstudiantes, (2), 23-24. Available at: http://www.cep-pie.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/PsicoEstudiantes-2-Oct-Nov-Final.pdf

Macedo-Pascual, J. (2016). Efectos de la externalización de la memoria mediante la interacción social. [online] Repositorio Documental de la Universidad de Salamanca. Available at: http://hdl.handle.net/10366/130226

Popular science publications available at: https://psicologiaymente.com/autores/joaquin-macedo

Modulation of oscillatory mechanisms within the alpha-band according to the perceptive threshold of a retro-cue.

 

Post-Doc

Giulia Ellena

My research focuses on the affective modulations of the multisensory representation of the space around the body, the peripersonal space. I am interested in understanding how emotional faces impacts this boundary of self-protection. I am currently addressing these questions using behavioural tasks and electrophysiological techniques.

European Workshop on Cognitive Neuropsychology, 2020. Bressanone, 26th of January 2020. Title of the presentation: “Fearful faces modulate spatial attention in PPS: an ERP study”.

European Workshop on Cognitive Neuropsychology, 2019. Bressanone, 21st of January 2019. Title of the presentation: “The plasticity of the PPS in presence of approaching fearful and joyful faces”.

 

Ellena G, Starita F, Haggard P, Romei V, Làdavas E. (2021). Fearful faces modulate spatial processing in peripersonal space: an ERP study. Neuropsychologia, 12, 107827. 

Ellena, G., Starita, F., Haggard, P., & Làdavas, E. (2020). The spatial logic of fear. Cognition203, 104336.

Ellena, G., Battaglia, S., & Làdavas, E. (2020). The spatial effect of fearful faces in the autonomic response. Experimental Brain Research, 1-10.

Ellena, G., Starita, F., Haggard, P., Romei, V. & Làdavas, E. Fearful faces modulate attention in peripersonal space: an ERP study. Neuropsychologia. Under Review.

Trabanelli, S., Fellrath, J., Vanoni, G., Ercolano, G., Ellena, G., Cornu, A., Gallart-Ayala, H., Ivanisevic, J., Grivaz, P., Serino, S., Paladino, M.P., Jandus, C., Serino, A., Infectious avatars entering the peripersonal space activate immune responses. In preparation.

Ellena, G., Serino, A., Làdavas, E., Plasticity of Peripersonal Space when facing emotional expressions. In preparation.

PhD Student

Paolo Di Luzio

Paolo Di Luzio is a doctoral student of the Joint program in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Psychology Department of the University of Bologna. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Psychological Sciences and Techniques at the University of Perugia, and then obtained a master’s degree in Neuroscience and Neuropsychological Rehabilitation at the University of Bologna. After graduation he carried out a research internship at the Center for Studies and Research in Cognitive Neuroscience (CsrNC) in  Cesena under the tutorship of Professor Alessio Avenanti. He currently carries out his PhD activity at the CsrNC under the supervision of Professor Vincenzo Romei. His main research interests focus on connectivity and neuroplasticity of the cortical visual system, investigated by the combined use of neurophysiological techniques (transcranial magnetic stimulation – TMS, electroencephalogram – EEG) and behavioral methods.

Di Luzio P., Tarasi L., Russo A., Romei V. Driving plasticity in recurrent visual networks affects perceptual decision-making. 7th International Conference on Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation and 4th European Conference of Brain Stimulation in Psychiatry 2020. (Abstract)

 

Di Luzio P, Borgomaneri S, Sanchioni S, Tessari A, Romei V. (2021) Exposure to first-person shooter videogames is associated with multisensory temporal precision and migraine incidence. Cortex. 134, 223-238. 

Borgomaneri S., Zanon M., Di Luzio P., Romei V., Tamietto M, Avenanti A. Empowering temporo-occipital back-projections boosts visual perception of emotions. (in preparation).

Di Luzio P., Borgomaneri S., Romei V, Avenanti A. “She’s got the look”. Selective gaze-cueing modulation for female cues through temporo-occipital network stimulation. (in preparation).

Di Luzio P, Tarasi L, Silvanto J, Avenanti A, Romei V. Driving associative plasticity in reentrant visual networks dissociate subjective vs. objective components of perceptual decision-making (In preparation).

 

PhD Student

Gianluca Marsicano

I am a PhD student of the “Joint PhD program in Cognitive Neuroscience” at the Psychology Department of the University of Bologna. I obtained a master’s degree in “Neuroscience and Neuropsychological Rehabilitation” at the University of Padua. After graduation I did a post-graduate intern at “BDACLAB” of the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University under the supervision of Dr. Luca Ronconi. During my stay in the laboratory, I conducted EEG experiments on audiovisual integration processes and their underlying brain oscillatory activity, and studied these same mechanisms using web-based psychophysical paradigms. Furthermore, my research activity has been focused in investigating the EEG correlates of attentional zoom-lens anomalies in individuals with ASD using multivariate pattern analyses. Currently, I am carrying out my research activity in the Center of Cognitive Neuroscience in Cesena under the supervision of Prof. Caterina Bertini. My main research interests concerns the study of how the oscillatory brain activity drives visual and attentional performance in the healthy population, the study of how this neural activity is abnormal in patients affected by visual field defects and the investigation of how brain EEG oscillations can be functionally modulated with the use of sensory entrainment and NIBS techniques.

Marsicano, G., Bertoni, S., Franceschini, S., Puccio, G., Gori, S., Ronconi, L., & Facoetti, A. “Action video-games improves reading and global perception in children with dyslexia: An electroencephalographic study.” 43rd European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP). August 22-27, 2021. (Abstract)

Marsicano, G., Cerpelloni, F., Melcher, D., & Ronconi, L. (2021). Lower multisensory temporal acuity in individuals with high schizotypal traits: a web-based study.

Currently accessible on PsyArXiv:  10.31234/osf.io/ct9bk

PhD Student

Luca Tarasi

Luca Tarasi is a PhD student of the interdepartmental doctoral course in “Health and Technologies” at the Department of Psychology “Renzo Canestrari” and the Department of Electrical Energy and Information Engineering “Guglielmo Marconi”. 

His main research interests focus on the understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying perceptual decision-making and on the study of the processes underpinning alterations in the decision-making process in neurocognitive and psychiatric disorders. To this end, he uses a multi-methodological approach integrating the classic methods of cognitive neuroscience (EEG, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and behavioural paradigms) with the quantitative approaches typical of computational neuroscience branch such as neural modelling and machine learning algorithms applied to the electroencephalographic data analysis.

Di Luzio P., Tarasi L., Russo A., Romei V. “Driving plasticity in recurrent visual networks affects perceptual decision-making”. 7th International Conference on Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation (NIBS), March 24 – 26, 2020 in Baden-Baden, Germany.

Di Luzio P., Tarasi L., Russo A., Romei V. “ Empowering feedback projections in visual networks affects perceptual decision-making in humans”

 

PhD Student

Jelena Trajkovic

I am a PhD student of the Joint PhD programe of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Psychology of the University of Bologna. Currently, I am carrying out my research activity in the Center of Cognitive Neuroscience in Cesena under the supervision of prof. Vincenzo Romei.

My research interest include describing electrophysiological underpinnings of processes of perception and attention. More specifically, understanding how the oscillatory brain activity in the alfa range is associated with both perceptual accuracy and subjective awareness, and, on the other hand, how it determines an efficient attentional control. 

Furthermore, I am also interested in understanding and describing perceptual and attentional deficits in neurocognitive and psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia and autism, in the light of an abnormal functioning in the alfa range, by investigating at-risk populations, such as persons with accentuated schizotypy or autistic traits.

My research interests also include perfecting and developing novel protocols of combining neurostimulation techniques and electrophysiological measures, as well as integrating computational methods with traditional experimental approach.

P224 Trajkovic J., Di Luzio P., Roperti C., Mercantoni E., Di Gregorio, F., Romei V. Tuning alpha rhythms to shape conscious visual perception. Clinical Neurophysiology 131(4), e140e141.

P220 Trajkovic J., Di Gregorio F., Roperti C., Romei V. Pre-stimulus alpha frequency predicts the latency of visual evoked P1 component. Clinical Neurophysiology 131(4), e143-e144.

Di Gregorio F., Trajkovic J., Roperti C., Romei V. Electrophysiological and cognitive asymmetries underlying schizotypy. Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) 2019, 9-13 june, Rome, Italy.

Trajkovic J, Di Gregorio F, Ferri F, Diciotti S, Romei V. Resting-state alpha oscillations and connectivity as valid and reliable markers of schizotypy: a machine learning approach.

Di Gregorio F, Trajkovic J, Roperti C, Avenanti A, Romei V. Oscillatory correlates of subjective confidence, objective accuracy and their interplay in conscious perception.

Research Assistant

Riccardo Bertaccini

I’m a research assistant at the Center of Studies and Research in Cognitive Neuroscience, whose activity is supervised by Professor Vincenzo Romei. 

After some years spent in engineering studies, in 2019 I obtained my BSc in Sciences and Psychological Techniques at the University of Bologna with a thesis concerning the physiological relationship between nasal respiration and pupil dynamics, developed during an exchange period spent at the Karolinska Institutet. Afterwards, in 2021 I earned my MSc in Neuroscience and Neuropsychological Rehabilitation at the University of Bologna, with a thesis entitled “Boosting working memory capacity by strengthening long-range alpha-band functional connectivity over the frontoparietal pathway”. Specifically, the project was aimed at assessing whether a novel oscillatory-based ccPAS protocol was able to enhance frontoparietal connectivity in the alpha band and, at the same time, be beneficial to working memory performance. 

My research focus concerns the oscillatory dynamics underlying functional as well as resting state connectivity. That is why I’m currently following up on these findings, adopting a methodological approach that spans from non-invasive brain stimulation techniques to electrophysiological measurements, matched with behavioral or resting states paradigms.