Motor and Brain Development Dynamics

We study the behavioral and functional mechanisms underpinning motor coordination, with particular emphasis to the interaction between motor behavior and brain activity. We aim at contributing to a better understanding of such interaction during the life span of humans, from the development of interconnected motor and brain functions during the perinatal age, to the regression of those functions with aging. Our studies are performed by combining behavioral observations and kinematics acquisitions with the monitoring of the brain function by means of fMRI, EEG and MEG systems.



Coordination Dynamics

Within the theoretical framework of Coordination Dynamics we study unimanual and bimanual finger coordination and their neural correlates in populations of non-clinical and clinical subjects affected by neuro-motor impairments to the upper limbs. Our studies focus on the behavioral and functional synchronization versus an external rate, and on their reorganization during spontaneous and intentional switching between different coordination patterns. Our studies are performed using fMRI and HR-EEG systems to monitor the brain function, whereas motor behavior is quantified by means of a non-magnetic equipment that we developed for the quantification of finger kinematics during coordination tasks.


Ongoing projects:

  1. Neural Dynamics of Coordination Switching and Selection to uncover the neural dynamics associated with intentional and spontaneous switching between patterns of coordination.
    We perform the study in collaboration with Prof. KJ Jantzen, Human Cognition and Neural Dynamics Laboratory (HCND Lab), Western Washington University, Bellingham (Washington – USA), using a 64 channel active electrode EEG system from BioSemi (available at the HCND Lab).

  2. Cortical dynamics underpinning unimanual and bimanual finger coordination, and the transition between different motor patterns in patients affected by Parkison’s Disease and by obsessive-compulsive disease to disentangle a correlation between the development of the disease and the functional and behavioral dynamics.
    We perform the study in collaboration with Prof. Sandro Sorbi, Prof. Alessandro Rossi, Dr. Antonio Serio, Dr. Bianca Maria Guarnieri, Istituto di Ricerca Clinica Villa Serena, Casa di Cura Villa Serena, Città S. Angelo (Pescara, Italy), using a 128 channel active electrode EEG system from EBNeuro.



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Early infancy

This research line is designed to study the development and learning of motor skills in infants as young as one month of age up to 6 years of age. In particular, our research seeks to understand the development of mu-rhythm (µ) in non clinical infants, since little is still known about µ in infants and how it develops with age. The µ supposedly reflects activation of the Mirror Neuron System (MNS) since it desynchronizes in response during execution and observation of movements. MNS dysfunction has been suspected in neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., autism). Therefore, a deeper understanding of the development of those systems may contribute to the development of diagnostic and therapeutic tools. We investigate the development of infants’ neural activity by means of a pediatric MEG system (babySQUID) installed at the MIND Research Network of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque (NM, USA).


Ongoing projects:

  1. Characterization of the Mirror Neuron System in infants with typical and atypical development.
    We develop this research at the Mind Research Network of the University of New Mexico Health Science Center (UNMHSC, NM - USA) in collaboration with Dr. Julia Stephen, Prof. Robert Annett and Prof. Yoshio Okada, and using the pediatric MEG system (babySQUID) installed at the MIND Research Network. This study is being sponsored by the UNMHSC Clinical and Translational Sciences Center (CTSC) with Human Research Review Committee (HRRC) approval #08-236.

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