Leiron Ferrarese, Dr. rer. nat. ​​

Postdoctoral Fellow, European Molecular Biology Laboratory

Leiron Ferrarese has been a postdoctoral fellow in Hiroki Asari’s group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Rome, Italy since 2018. He received a bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Rome “Roma Tre”, Italy, in 2006, and conducted graduate studies in neurobiology at the University of Rome La Sapienza, Italy. He then won a Ph.D. fellowship at the Max Delbruck Center where he studied dendritic integration in vivo with James Poulet, and received his Ph.D. from the Freie University of Berlin, Germany, in 2017.

As a postdoctoral researcher, Ferrarese has been studying the integration of contextual information in the early visual system of autism model mice. This project was supported first by an EMBL Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellowship and currently by a pilot award from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI).

Ferrarese’s scientific interests are in studying neuronal network dynamics in mouse models of psychiatric disorders to better understand how dysfunctional behaviors may arise from anomalous neuronal computations. To this aim, he takes interdisciplinary approaches combining in vivo calcium imaging of awake mice performing a visual learning task, genetic tools for neural activity manipulation, and computational modelling of network dynamics.

Principal Investigator: Hiroki Asari

Fellow: Cecilia Scaricamazza

Undergraduate Fellow Project:

Brains have evolved to interpret the environment and provide a motor output that best fits for survival. Autistic individuals often have abnormal interpretations of the environment hence behave differently, but how is the autistic brain different from the healthy one? In our lab, we study anomalous neuronal dynamics occurring in the brains of autism model mice to gain insights into how this disorder can arise and how it can be treated. We recently found a suboptimal neuronal computation in the early visual system of autism model mice when aversive visual stimuli were presented under different environmental contexts. Here we propose to expand on these results with a behavioral characterization. Specifically, we will first perform behavioral assays to monitor the responses to visual threats, and use machine learning tools to quantify and compare the responses between healthy and autism model mice. Such experiments will also be combined with histological assays and neurophysiological recordings to better understand the relationship between the behavior and the brain structure and function. Candidates can have a background from either natural science such as biology and physics or computer science, and the project involvement will be tailored to the specific interests and expertise of the student.

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