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Paolo Bonifazi

Biocruces Health Research Institute,  Barakaldo Bizkaia

Dr. Bonifazi’s research interests are focused on understanding the relationship between structure and function of brain circuits and networks, with a special attention on how neural systems elaborate, compute and communicate information at the different spatial scales (from synapsis to large brain networks), and on the impact of neurological diseases. His research track is divided in two major experimental lines, specifically developmental (in-vitro) micro-circuits and neuro-engineering, and two computational ones, specifically human brain networks and micro-circuit modelling.

In a pioneering study (2007-2011) on developing hippocampal circuitries, he demonstrated the existence and impact of hub neurons on circuits synchronization (research published in the journals Science, Neuron and reviewed in TINS).

During his staying in the group of late prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob (2010-2015), a world-wide known physicist of complex systems, at the Tel Aviv University, he has been Principal Investigator within the Italy-Israel joint laboratory on Neuroscience and the “BRAINBOW” project (FET-OPEN EU FP7) aiming at developing a Neuromorphic chip for brain circuits’ repair.

Since 2015, he joined the Computational Neuroimaging group at the Biocruces Bizkaia (Bilbao, Spain) as an Ikerbasque Researcher, where he opened a new line of research on the macro-scale brain networks, based on his firm believe that understating how brain circuits operate require a multi-scale approach trying to bind activities emerging from microcircuits to larger brain network dynamics. Since then, he provided new evidence on the structural-functional match in resting-state brain networks (Sci. Rep. 2015) and the major role of the fronto-striato-thalamic circuit in brain aging (HBM, 2018). In addition, he has been leading as PI a project aimed at studying the multi-scale nature of epileptic networks in human patients combining deep electrode recordings and magnetic resonance imaging (funded by the Spanish Ministry), in collaboration with the Ruber International Hospital (Madrid). The results of this study (under publication) provide new tools for more accurate and non-invasive identification of epileptic networks.

In his most recent works, he provided: one of the few clear evidence in the literature of how astrocytes impact the structural and functional topology of neuronal circuits, with dysfunctional astrocytes leading to patho-topological circuits’ connectivity (PNAS, 2018), and neuro-engineering evidence of real-time information transfer between artificial and biological neuronal networks using patterned optogenetics and multi-electrode recordings in-vitro (Sci. Rep. 2020).

Lately (2020-now), he opened a new line of research on pathological structural-functional circuits’ architecture in animal models of epilepsy, both in-vivo and in-vitro, specifically through: 1) an established model of temporal lobe epilepsy in mice (through Kainate Acid injections) to look longitudinally at the onset of epileptiform activity using in-vivo calcium imaging with mini-scope in non-anesthetized freely moving animals, and 2) an in-vitro model of epilepsy based on organotypic hippocampal slices temporally cultured with GABAergic antagonists, to look at circuit’s reorganization and structural changes revealed by post-hoc staining. The above projects are supported by “AYUDAS JUAN DE LA CIERVA-FORMACIÓN 2018” (Spanish Ministry for Science and Innovation).

Since 2014 he holds the Italian National Scientific Qualification for Associate Professor of Physiology and Applied Physics, and he have been supervising first degree students (9), masters students (2), PhD students (3) and post-doctoral fellows (2). He has been able to attract competitive funds mostly from National (Spanish) and European institutions (FET-OPEN and Marie Curie calls).

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