The SMC focuses on the study of neuroscience of social cognition, i.e. the study of the motor cognitive mechanisms underlying the comprehension of actions, intentions, and emotions of others. These mental capabilities have been traditionally considered as high-order processes, involving metarepresentational and/or abstract mental abilities only. Over the last two decades, however, a large number of neurophysiological and psychological findings increasingly shed light on the existence of a common neural mechanism –the mirror mechanism- that accounts for most basic aspects of social cognition.
The main research objective of the SMC Brain Center is to unravel the mechanisms that are at the basis of the different aspects of social cognition as well as to study their possible interactions. Our goal is (a) to understand how action, intention and emotion are coded and how they develop in non-human primates; (b) to investigate the same mechanism in humans and to unravel the relation between the most basic mechanism underlying these functions, such as the mirror mechanism, and high-order processes (e.g. mentalizing, language), using high-density EEG, stereo-EEG, TMS and fMRI and behavioral techniques; (c) to examine the dysfunction of the mirror mechanism and other mechanisms involved in social cognition in patients with diseases like autism and schizophrenia.
Finally, in collaboration with Azienda Ospedaliera Ospedale Niguarda Ca' Granda in Milan the SMC is involved in developing new types of chronic electrodes for single neuron recording in humans. In addition, in collaboration with Department of Mathematics of University of Genova, the SMC is involved in the elaboration of a series of algorithms for localizing the sources of EEG and MEG signals.