Research activities

The MRI Lab studies the basics and application of Magnetic Resonance Imaging from different perspectives.

The combination of anatomical and functional information afforded by neuroimaging methods, like Magnetic Resonance Imaging, provides a powerful means to investigate the brain structural and functional organization.



Neuroimaging data can be represented in terms of networks, or graphs, with anatomically or functionally defined districts representing the nodes, and the edges reflecting a measure of similarity or connectivity between different brain regions. The BraiNets lab leverages recent developments in graph theory and statistical physics to unravel structural and topological features of complex brain networks. Specific problems we are tackling at the moment include the:

  • Investigation of the modular structure of brain functional and structural connectivity beyond the resolution limit that affects current graph partitioning methods;
  • Identification and classification of connector hubs, i.e. brain regions responsible for the integration of brain activity;
  • Comparison of brain networks in healthy subjects and patients to identify connectivity-based markers of neurological and psychiatric disease;
  • Study of the interplay between structural and functional connectivity, particularly in the presence of severe alterations of white matter structure;
  • Investigation of the inception of functional connectivity networks in newborn babies.
  • Tiziano Squartini - IMT (Lucca, Italy)
  • Andrea Gabrielli - CNR Institute of Complex Systems (Rome. Italy)
  • Guido Caldarelli - IMT (Lucca, Italy)
  • Sandro Vega-Pons - NILab, FBK-CIMeC (Trento, Italy)
  • Emanuele Olivetti - NILab, FBK-CIMeC (Trento, Italy)
  • Paolo Avesani - NILab, FBK-CIMeC (Trento, Italy)
  • Matteo Caffini - CIMeC, University of Trento, Italy
  • Giorgio Vallortigara - CIMeC, University of Trento, Italy
  • Diego Sona - PAVIS, IIT Genova
  • Vittorio Murino - PAVIS, IIT Genova
  • Massimo Pasqualetti - University of Pisa, Italy

Neuroimaging of addiction

This line of research focuses on the application of functional. Magnetic Resonance Imaging methods to map and investigate brain circuits involved in drug and alcohol addiction. Specifically, we pursue a translational, systems-based approach to understand the alterations in brain function, structure and connectivity in patients, and in animal models of drug dependence. Moreover, we apply neuroimaging methods, dubbed phMRI, to probe the effects of approved and new pharmacological treatments of addiction. This research effort is funded by the EC within the h2020 framework through the project System Biology of Alcohol Addiction (Sybil-AA).

  • Wolfgang Sommer - Central Institute of Mental Health (Mannheim, Germany)
  • Hamid Noori - Central Institute of Mental Health (Mannheim, Germany)
  • Roberto Ciccocioppo - University of Camerino, Italy
  • Nazzareno Cannella - University of Camerino, Italy


The computational infrastructure of the Brain Networks lab includes two servers Dell PowerEdge, 24 CPUs Intel Xeon each and 512 GB RAM, and a cluster of high performance workstations. The Magnetic Resonance Imaging lab is equipped with a multichannel Bruker Pharmascan MR scanner at 7 Tesla, and sophisticated ancillary equipment for physiological control and monitoring; this lab has access to CiMeC in vivo facilities.

Selected Publications


Principal investigator

Angelo Bifone

Angelo Bifone received a University degree from the University of Rome (Italy) in 1990, and a doctoral degree in Physics from the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa (Italy) in 1995. He conducted postdoctoral research in Berkeley (CA, USA) and Leiden (The Netherlands). From 1996 until 2001 he held the position of Lecturer in Magnetic Resonance Physics at the Institute of Cancer research of the University of London (UK). From 2001 until 2010 he was the director of the Neuroimaging Department of the Glaxo-Smith Kline Medicines Research Center in Verona (Italy). In 2010 he joined the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia as a Tenured Senior Scientist and Director of the Center for Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems. Angelo Bifone expertise is in the area of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging as applied to the study of brain function and disfunction. His group has pioneered pharmacological MRI methods to study the effects of drug intervention on brain functional activity and connectivity. His current research interests include the study of brain connectivity using graph representation and complex network analysis. Angelo Bifone published ca. 100 peer-reviewed papers in top-tier international journals, including Neuron, Nature Neuroscience and PNAS; he was awarded the Sapio Prize for MRI in 2004.