Interessi di ricerca Ipra

Our research interests in neuroscience, psychology and medicine

We investigate how individual differences in emotional experiences underlie the different brain activations engaged in psychological and psychiatric symptoms, and in stress related medical symptoms.

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Our first studies show how the Inward-Outward affective dispositions  (Arciero & Bondolfi, 2009, Arciero, Bondolfi, Mazzola, 2019) and the genetic component, i.e. the polymorphisms of the serotonin transporter, both explain the activation of the amygdala when processing fearful facial expressions (Bertolino et al. 2005; Rubino et al. 2007).

We have then explored a topic that aroused great interest, empathy, especially pain empathy.

In our next study on empathy for pain (Mazzola et al. 2010), we found that the brain areas activated by the pain expression of one’s partner are different according to the one’s emotional disposition, Inward or Outward.
Specifically, the most Inward participants have greater activity in the insula, an area that maps the body and viscerality, while the more Outward participants in the precuneus and posterior cingulate, areas responsible for monitoring the external context in relation to themselves.

Another topic of great interest to us is the observation of the action, its recognition and understanding (Arciero, 2006).
We have created a task ables to show persons performing the same action of grasping an object but with different facial expressions. The results show how the brain areas responsible for voluntary movement (cerebellum-thalamus-cortical loop) are activated according to the emotional context rather than those of the mirror neuron system (Mazzola et al. 2013).

Hence, given that it is the ongoing emotional context, in which the action is happening, primary to process the action in itself, we then show how the insula is differently involved in action understanding according to the emotional contexts, as for instance anger or joy (Mazzola et al. 2016), and to the Inward-Outward affective dispositions (Mazzola et al. 2020).

In collaboration with the LabNic, we investigate the neural correlates underlying the relationship between fear, alarm and action in people with functional neurological symptoms.

About psychopathology, the interaction between the emotional context and the observation of the action was also investigate in a group of patients with schizophrenia (in preparation). Always  putting at the center the emotional engagement, in another sample of  patients affected by schizophrenia we investigate the circuits involved in watching people laughing and crying, both in congruent conditions (visual and audio of the same emotion) and incongruent (different visual and audio) (in preparation).

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In collaboration with the Liaison Psychiatry service of the University Hospitals of Geneva, we explore the vulnerability and the link between emotional reactivity, brain activity and neuroinflammation markers in patients with neurogenic heart diseases.

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We conducted a study on the construction of the DASQ Inward-Outward Dispositional Affective Styles Questionnaire (Mazzola et al. 2014). A second validation study of the DASQ is in preparation.

We study also the relationship between the linguistic competence and the mirror recognition skill in 90 children aged 17 to 24 months (in preparation).

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Research articles in neuroscience, psychology and medicine