Giusy Pizzirusso, MD, PhD student

Giusy Pizzirusso

Affiliated to research

Medical Doctor and Ph.D. student

About me

I am a medical doctor and Ph.D. student. My Ph.D. project is part of the KI-NIH Doctoral Partnership Programme in Neuroscience, which gives me the opportunity of splitting my research between Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm, Sweden) and National Institute of Health (Bethesda, USA).

The main goal of my research is to increase our understanding of the cellular and synaptic mechanisms underlying neuronal synchronization and electrical oscillations in neuronal networks during physiological and pathological states. This knowledge is essential to elucidate pathological network changes, a crucial step to finding new ways of rescuing altered brain oscillations and defining new targets for therapeutic intervention. We use ex-vivo electrophysiology, imaging, and network modeling to investigate gamma frequency oscillations in the neuronal networks of the hippocampus, which plays an important role in higher brain functions that are affected in various brain disorders.

Research description

The guiding thread of my research is neuronal oscillations, which are repetitive patterns of neural activity in the central nervous system. The synchronized activity of large numbers of neurons gives rise to macroscopic fluctuations of currents, which can be observed in an electroencephalogram as a rhythmic fluctuation in local field potentials. The precise timing of neuronal-spike discharges gives rise to the so-called brain oscillations. Depending on their frequency, oscillations have been divided into different groups, each of which has been associated with a specific function. 

My project focuses on gamma oscillations, which are characterized by a frequency range between 30 and 80 Hz.  Gamma oscillations can be detected in multiple brain regions, including the hippocampus where they are the result of the synchronization of action potentials of excitatory pyramidal cells (PC) and inhibitory GABAergic interneurons, in particular fast-spiking interneurons (FSN). Alterations in the synchronous activity of PC and FSN in the hippocampus are related to cognitive deficits and neurodegenerative diseases. For this reason, I evaluate the hippocampal network functionality, which is expressed as gamma oscillations, by performing local field potential and patch clamp recordings in healthy and pathological acute slices. 

The overall aim of my research is to test the hypothesis that rescuing the early synaptic alterations that trigger gamma oscillations impairment in multiple neurodegenerative conditions (including after cranial radiotherapy and Alzheimer’s disease) would prevent the late cognitive decline observed in these situations. This will provide the basis for a novel approach: detect and restore the brain oscillatory activity at an early stage to prevent severe late complications. 

Academic honours, awards and prizes

"Piero Stroder" private scholarship for honors students.