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Fabbri Destro Maddalena

Research scientist
Parma research unit
via Volturno 39/E
43125 Parma
Tel 0521-903847
Fax 0521-903900

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Her research has focused on the study of the human mirror system, in particular on the role that the motor system plays in understanding the actions and intentions of others. These research themes were explored through behavioral (motor testing and kinematic tracking systems), electrophysiological (EMG) and neurophysiological (EEG and fMRI) measurement techniques.
By partnering with Italian centers for the diagnosis and treatment of children with autism spectrum disorders, since 2007 her research has focused on the evaluation of the motor system in autistic children during tasks requiring the planning, execution and observation of intentional actions. These studies contributed evidence of how these neural processes are deficient in autistic individuals, and may underlie some of the prevalent symptoms of this disorder. Currently, she leads a line of research aimed at early and selective identification of specific motor patterns for the autism spectrum, in order to provide useful elements for an early and reliable differential diagnosis, and for the definition of rehabilitative treatments designed in consideration of both motor and socio-communicative functioning.
In order to understand the relationship between these two components, more recently, using the high-density EEG, she has studied the relationship between the motor system and language, with particular attention to the role that the motor / mirror system plays in the semantic understanding of words or phrases with motor content.
Since 2014 she is a teacher in a course of General Psychology at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, and has supervised students for the dissertation (BA and MSc) in Psychology and Sciences of EducationFor three years she is a teacher in a course of General Psychology at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, and has supervised students for the dissertation (BA and MSc) in Psychology and Sciences of Education.

Selected Publication

Gizzonio V, Avanzini P, Campi C, Orivoli S, Piccolo B, Cantalupo G, Tassinari CA, Rizzolatti G, Fabbri-Destro M. Failure in pantomime action execution correlates with the severity of social behavior deficits in children with autism: a praxis study. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(10):3085-97, 2015.

Fabbri-Destro M, Avanzini P, De Stefani E, Innocenti A, Campi C, Gentilucci M. Interaction between Words and Symbolic Gestures as Revealed By N400. Brain Topography. 28(4):591-605, 2015.

Rizzolatti G, Cattaneo L, Fabbri-Destro M, Rozzi S. Cortical mechanisms underlying the organization of goal-directed actions and mirror neuron-based action understanding. Physiological Reviews, 94 (2), pp. 655-706, 2014.

Cattaneo L, Fabbri-Destro M, Boria S, Pieraccini C, Monti A, Cossu G, Rizzolatti G. Impairment of actions chains in autism and its possible role in intention understanding. Proceedings of National Academy of Science, 45:17825-17830, 2007.

Rizzolatti G, Fabbri-Destro M, Cattaneo L. Mirror neurons and their clinical relevance. Nature Clinical Practice Neurology, 5:24-34, 2009.