MEMORY AND CONFABULATION IN AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS
Hippocampus (HCP) is a very crucial neurofunctional hub: it plays a key role in spatio-temporal encoding, in identifying newness, classifying sameness (unicity and multiplicity) and in global and fine-grained representations. In general, it sustains the formation and retrieval of declarative memories. R. DeLong (1992) was the first to focus on hippocampal functioning in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and more recently other studies have offered evidences for an irregular functioning of declarative memory in ASD.
Our main goal is to farther explore memory in children and adults with ASD; specifically we hypothesise that disrupted upstream and downstream HCP-connectivity may lead to several type of confabulation (i.e. statements and actions incongruous to subject’s background, current situation and future plans). We adapted the Confabulation Questionnaire to both typically and atypically developed participants, challenging their semantic and episodic retrieval. Moreover, we investigate the effects of a perceptual and imaginative enriched environment in a sample of children with ASD, measuring their sensorimotor, cognitive and behavioral outcomes compared to control group.
This PhD project is rooted on the neurophenomenological framework and more specifically on the Memory, Consciousness and Temporality Theory (MCTT, G. Dalla Barba, 2001). MCTT postulates a direct bound within different patterns of neural modification and the subjective experience. Through the above studies we would like to highlight the importance of perceptual, imaginative, knowing and temporal consciousnesses during development, implementing new approaches towards ASD.
Candidate: Anna Antoniol
BODY REPRESENTATION AND ACTION PREDICTION IN EATING DISORDERS
Dysfunctional body-image experiences in eating disorders (EDs) have been largely documented, presenting evidence of both perceptual and cognitive mechanisms to be involved. Further, as demonstrated by studies aimed at investigating autistic traits, patients with Anorexia Nervosa (AN) often show deficits in the Theory of Mind (Oldershaw et al., 2010; Tchanturia et al., 2004), the capacity to attribute mental states, beliefs, and intentions to others. Thus, it seems clear that EDs impairments do not only concern body perception dimension but also some components of social perception. My PhD project proposes the inclusion of the aforementioned EDs impairments in a predictive coding perspective. Recalling the Bayesian statistical approach, this model considers human mental representation as result of the integration of incoming sensory data provided by environment and internal-based predictions (Friston, 2002, 2003; Kilner & Frith, 2009). If predictions and data are not well-matched, the “errors” that occur must be minimized in order to ensure consistency within the multimodal self-representation. By using both behavioural procedures and non-invasive brain stimulation techniques (TMS), the ultimate goal of my study is to prove the involvement of the process of integration between expectations and sensory inputs in EDs aetiology, giving a novel explanation to the most characteristic cognitive deficits found in these patients.
Candidate: Giulia D'Argenio
STRATEGIC MONITORING IN TIME-BASED PROSPECTIVE MEMORY
Time-Based Prospective Memory (TBPM) is the remembering to perform an action in the future, either at a specific time or after a certain amount of time has passed. The main topic of the project is the monitoring of the passage of time during TBPM task. More precisely to understand the interplay between the strategic/deliberate ("top-down") and the more intuitive/automatic ("bottom up") aspects of time monitoring in TBPM. Moreover, to understand their cognitive and neural correlates by assessing the role of executive functions and time estimation abilities in different aspects of TBPM monitoring and performance using behavioural task as well as non-invasive Brain Stimulation (TMS, tDCS). To study this interplay, strategic (e.g. availability of external clock, strategy training) and intuitive (e.g. internal clock synchronization/desynchronization) components of TBPM task will be manipulated across several experiments.
Candidate: Giulio Munaretto
THE ANTHOCYANIN-BILIRUBIN INTERPLAY OBSERVED AT THE VASCULAR SURFACE OF THE RAT LIVER
Dietary anthocyanins (AC) have revealed a wide spectrum of favourable biological activities in animal cells, organs and organisms. AC-rich diets have shown to warrant risk reductions of both systemic and organ-specific diseases. The molecular mechanism(s) responsible for AC membrane transport into cells and across cellular barriers are not completely characterised. Early in 2002, we have shown that pure AC competitively inhibited the membrane transport of the pH-indicator dye bromosulfophthalein (BSP), formerly used in clinics to assess the liver functional reserve. Indeed, BSP was a well-known inhibitor of hepatic bilirubin (BR) uptake in vivo and widely used in pharmacology studies to replace BR as a transport substrate. That finding showed AC to be potential inhibitors of hepatic BR uptake. We present here the work done to assess this hypothesis in the rat liver.
Candidate: Paola Pelizzo
ASSESSMENT AND PROMOTION OF EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN
The concept of Emotional Intelligence has generated considerable interest in recent years. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is defined as either a set of interrelated abilities (Mayer & Salovey, 1990) or as emotion-related dispositions and self-perceptions (Petrides et al., 2007). In developmental research, studies have focused on the role played by EI as a promoting or protective factor for children and adolescents' well-being. In the last years, several intervention programs aimed to enhance EI in children and adolescents have been carried out in the school environment. Nevertheless, in the Italian context there are still few studies directed to assess the effectiveness of trainings targeting children’s emotional competence. The aim of this PhD project is to implement an EI training program for school-aged children and to test its effectiveness. The training, inspired by the model of Ability Emotional Intelligence proposed by Mayer and Salovey (1997), aims to develop and strengthen specific emotion-related abilities and to increase levels of psychological well-being. This research may provide evidence of the relevance of EI for children's psychological well-being and may enhance the promotion of EI-related activities in educational contexts.
Candidate: Marina Pauletto
D’Argenio, G., Finisguerra, A. & Urgesi, C. Experience-dependent reshaping of body gender perception. Psychological Research (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-021-01569-4
Bandiera, A., Corich, L., Tommasi, S., De Bortoli, M., Pelizzo, P., Stebel, M., Paladin, D., Passamonti, S (2020). Polipeptidi simili all'elastina umana come piattaforma versatile per lo sfruttamento del rilevamento ultrasensibile della bilirubina da parte di UnaG . Biotecnologia e bioingegneria. 117 : 354 - 361
Bianco, V., Finisguerra, A., Betti, S., D'Argenio, G., & Urgesi, C. (2020). Autistic Traits Differently Account for Context-Based Predictions of Physical and Social Events. Brain Sci. 10, 418 https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10070418
D'Argenio, G., Finisguerra, A., Urgesi, C. (2020). Motion and Gender-Typing Features Interact in the Perception of Human Bodies. Front. Neurosci. 14:277
D'Argenio, G., Urgesi, C. (2019). Disturbi alimentari e neuroscienze: la rappresentazione del corpo. In: Manuale dei disturbi alimentari, a cura di Spitoni e Aragona. Carrocci Editore