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Concetta ERC 2013

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From Europe an Advanced Grant for Professor Maria Concetta Morrone

The ERC grants funding of 2.5 million euros to a Pisa University professor for a study project in the field of cognitive neuroscience

A project from Pisa University has been awarded an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC): Maria Concetta Morrone, Professor of Physiology at the university, has been granted funding of 2.5 million euros for the period 2014-2018 with a research project in the field of cognitive neuroscience. "Early cortical sensory plasticity and adaptability in human adults" is the title of the project, which aims to investigate the plasticity and the capacity for change of the adult brain through experimental studies carried out in a clinical environment and which concentrate in particular on visual properties.

roots of brain The study will be carried out with the scientific collaboration of the Institute of Neuroscience of the CNR and will also involve the Stella Maris Foundation and their Imago 7 scanner. "Neuronal plasticity is an important mechanism for memory and cognition," explains Professor Morrone. "It has long been thought that sensory neural systems are plastic only during the so-called 'critical period', that is to say only capable of changing structure and function at an early age. With this project we will demonstrate that this capacity for change is also present in the adult brain and particularly for basic visual properties like ocular dominance."The research team led by Maria Concetta Morrone, which also includes researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience of the CNR, Florence University, the Stella Maris Foundation, the Meyer Children's Hospital and Oxford University, has already investigated the high degree of plasticity in the adult visual cortex, paving the way for new and important applications in diagnostic and therapeutic fields and in particular in the treatment of children with amblyopia (or 'lazy eye').

In the course of the project funded by the ERC, the researchers will propose a series of experiments organized within different lines of research, the first of which will study the effects of brief periods of monocular deprivation on the reorganization of the visual cortex in adults, while another will analyze the clinical implications of monocular patching of children with amblyopia and the functional exploration of the visual cortex in newborns.

The research team is made up of numerous researchers from Tuscany who have worked with Maria Concetta Morrone for quite some time, such as Professor Giovanni Cioni, Dr. Michela Tosetti from the Stella Maris Foundation, Professor David Burr from Florence University (one of the first ERC grantees in Italy) and several young doctoral candidates and postdocs.

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