About me

I use computers, MRI and concepts to understand how the brain is made. I studied Philosophy in Torino, where I developed my first interest in brain anatomy prompted by the lectures of Maurizio Ferraris, and by the writings of Aristotle, Leibniz, Kant, James. After my MA in Theoretical Philosophy, I started a PhD program in Cognitive Science in the Psychology department of the University of Torino, under the supervision of Maurizio Tirassa. Two years later I began to work with brain images from magnetic resonance, under the supervision of Giuliano Geminiani and Katiuscia Sacco. This led me to an internship with Ana Solodkin and Steven Small at the Human Neuroscience Laboratory of the University of Chicago. The year after (2006) I got the PhD with a final dissertation on the effects of training locomotor attention on brain activity during motor imagery. Subsequently I worked for some months with Alberto Bizzi at the IRCCS Foundation Istituto Neurologico Carlo Besta in Milan, and eventually started my postdoc in the Social Brain Lab of Christian Keysers, first in the NeuroImaging Center of the UMCG Groningen, and recently also at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam.
During my postdoc years, I explored different methods to analyze and describe the structure underlying the variation of anatomical connectivity in a given brain region, at the level allowed by diffusion-weighted images. These methods have been first applied to the study of human insular connectivity. In the first years of postdoc I also tremendously enjoyed training several MA and PhD students in these neuroimaging techniques. I am currently the recipient of an NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research) grant awarded to Christian Keysers to study anatomical and functional brain connectivity in the Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Engel A, Hijmans BS, Cerliani L, Bangert M, Nanetti L, Keller P, Keysers C. (2013) Inter-individual differences in audio-motor learning of piano melodies and white matter fiber tract architecture. (Accepted for publication in Human Brain Mapping)

Metting Z¥, Cerliani L¥, Rodiger LA, van der Naalt J (2013) Pathophysiological Concepts in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Diffusion Tensor Imaging Related to Acute Perfusion CT Imaging. PloS ONE 8(5):e64461. (¥ = equal contribution)

Cerliani L, Thomas RM, Jbabdi S, Siero JCW, Nanetti L, Crippa A, Gazzola V, D’Arceuil H, and Keysers C. (2012) Probabilistic tractography recovers a rostrocaudal trajectory of connectivity variability in the human insular cortex. Human Brain Mapping 33(9):2005-34.

Crippa A, Cerliani L, Nanetti L, Roerdink JB. (2011) Heuristics for connectivity-based brain parcellation of SMA/pre-SMA through force-directed graph layout. Neuroimage 54(3):2176-84.

Atsak P, Orre M, Bakker P, Cerliani L, Roozendaal B, Gazzola V, Moita M, Keysers C. (2011) Experience modulates vicarious freezing in rats: a model for empathy. PloS ONE 6(7):e21855

Nanetti L, Cerliani L, Gazzola V, Renken R, Keysers C. (2009) Group analyses of connectivity-based cortical parcellation using repeated k-means clustering. Neuroimage 47(4):1666-77.

Bizzi A., Cerliani L., Ferre’ F., Ferraro S., Castelli M., State of the art of presurgical language mapping with functional magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic resonance tractography, Topics in Medicine (in press)

Sacco K, Cauda F, Cerliani L, Mate D, Duca S, Geminiani GC. (2006) Motor imagery of walking following training in locomotor attention. The effect of "the tango lesson". Neuroimage 32(3):1441-9.

Conferences and Presentations

Cerliani L., Thomas R.M., Thioux M., Keysers C. Differences in resting-state functional networks centered on the insula in high-functioning autism. Presented at the 18th Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping; June 10-14, 2012, Beijing, China.

Thomas R.M., Cerliani L., Thioux M., Sizoo B., Keysers C. Overconnectivity in primary sensory networks coupled with underconnectivity in higher-order cognitive networks in participants with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders. To be presented at the Biennal Conference on Resting State Functional Connectivity; September 5-7, 2012, Magdeburg, Deutschland.

Cerliani L., Thomas R.M., Thioux M., Keysers C. Increased crosstalk across resting-state functional networks in autism. Oral presentation at the 2nd Conference on Innovative Research in Autism - IRIA 2012, May 30 - June 1, Tours, France.

Cerliani L. The elusive anatomical and functional connection between (B)Area 45 and the insular cortex. May 26th, 2011, Palermo. 1st International School on Clinical Neuroanatomy: The Frontal Lobes.

Cerliani L. Exploring insular connectivity in vivo. April 7th, 2011. Institute Of Psychiatry, King's College, London. Invited seminar at the Natbrain Lab, by Dr. Marco Catani.

Cerliani L, D’Arceuil H, Thomas RM, Keysers C. Trajectories of connectivity variation in the macaque insula recovered by means of probabilistic white matter tractography on diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance data. Poster presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting (sfn2009), October 21, 2009, Chicago IL

Cerliani L, Thomas RM, Siero JCW, Nanetti L, Crippa A, Jbabdi S, D’Arceuil H, Gazzola V, Keysers C. Recovering trajectories of anatomical brain connectivity variation by applying laplacian eigenmaps to probabilistic white matter tractography results. Poster presented at the 1st Benelux ISMRM Meeting, December 10, 2008, Antwerpen

Cerliani L, Mandelli ML, Aquino D, Filosa G, Bruzzone MG and Bizzi A. Preoperative mapping of language with fMRI: frequency maps and comparison of three tasks in healthy subjects. Oral presentation at the ISMRM-ESMRMB 2007 Berlin. May 21, 2007

Nanetti L, Cerliani L, Gazzola V and Keysers C. Left insular connectivity during obser vation of movies carr ying different emotional contents. Poster presented at the 13th Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping in Chicago 2007.

Cauda F, Sacco K, Cerliani L, Mate D, Duca S, Geminiani GC. The effects of combined physical and mental practice on locomotor cerebral areas: An fMRI study with the ankle dorsiflexion paradigm. Poster presented at the 12th Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping. June 11-15, 2006, Firenze

Mate D, Sacco K, Cauda F, Cerliani L, Duca S, Geminiani G. Neural correlates of locomotor imagery within an embodied cognition perspective. Poster presented at the second biennial Conference on Cognitive Science, June 9-13, 2006, St. Petersburg