• Tonini 3 4474 749x388 © 2016 IIT 5136
  • Tonini Fig
  • Tonini Figure Gallery  4472 749x388 © 2016 IIT 5137

The functional connectivity between the cortex and sub cortical regions, including the basal ganglia, plays a major role in sensory-motor intergration, reward-based learning and action control. Elucidating the neuromodulatory mechanisms that regulate this connectivity is the primary focus of our research activity, both under physiological and pathological conditions.

In the lab, we investigate how distinct classes of neuromodulators (dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline, adenosine and endocannabinoids) act in a coordinated manner to shape cell-type- and input-specific forms of synaptic plasticity, seeking to understand how these plasticity changes affect action planning and adaptation (e.g. learning of goal directed actions, their flexible use and how they become habitual). This is relevant to elucidate how goal-directed and habitual behaviors are formed and maintained, but also how they are modified in diseases, which affect aspects of motor control (such as Parkinson’s disease) or cognition and motivation (such as drug addiction or compulsive disorders).


We combine neurophysiological (patch-clamp and extracellular field recordings) and imaging techniques (two-photon Ca2+ imaging) with in-vivo pharmacology and behavioral analysis (instrumental behavior and motor behavior), and with optogenetic/chemogenetic approaches (both ex-vivo and in-vivo).


The Neuromodulation of Cortical and Subcortical Circuits Laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation for

  • Electrophysiology (fully equipped rigs for ex-vivo patch-clamp recordings and in-vivo extracellular recordings)
  • Dual electrophysiology and two-photon calcium imaging
  • Optogenetics (laser and LED sources for ex-vivo electrophysiological recordings and in-vivo behavioral approaches)
  • Operant behavior
  • Transgene expression (gene delivery approaches in Cre-lox models)



  • Nano Carbon Materials (Silvia Giordani)
  • Functional Neuroimaging (Alessandro Gozzi)
  • Nanochemistry (Roberto Marotta)


  • Epigenetic Control of Neuronal Phenotype Laboratory (Elena Battaglioli) - Dept. Medical Biotechnology and Translational Medicine, University of Milan; CNR, Institute of Neuroscience.
  • Neuropharmacology Unit (Tiziana Rubino) - DBSF and Neuroscience Center, University of Insubria
  • Cell and Developmental Biology Unit (Massimo Pasqualetti) - Biology Department, University of Pisa


  • Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology (Istvan Katona) – Department of Cellular and Network Neurobiology, Institute of Experimental Medicine, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
  • Neuroscience Division (Riccardo Brambilla) - School of Biosciences, Cardiff University
  • Signal Transduction Laboratory (Gilberto Fisone) – Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institut