Francesco Savelli, Ph.D.
Phone: (210) 458-8066
Ph.D.; Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
B.S.; Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Dr. Savelli is a computer scientist and AI researcher turned neuroscientist. This path inspires him to study the physical and computational nature of brain functions as a "reverse engineering" problem. One high-level function concerns the use of perceptual information of external landmarks (e.g., from the visual system) and the internal sense of motion (e.g., from the vestibular or motor systems) to dynamically create your sense of location relative to a mental map of the surrounding environment. Neurons of the hippocampal formation such as place cells, grid cells, and boundary cells appear to participate in this function. Experimental and computational work in the laboratory is motivated by several broad questions: 1) What role exactly these cells have in the computations that are necessary for creating the map and for updating your sense of location; 2) How subcortical regions participate in this process; and 3) How all this relates to other types of cognitive abstractions that the hippocampal formation creates beyond maps (e.g., of time, or of autobiographical memories).
High-density, single-unit, electrophysiological recordings in freely behaving rodents. Advanced data analysis methods for interpreting experimental results. Computational modeling for refining experimental hypotheses. The lab is just starting (as of Spring 2020) and welcomes inquiries at all levels — undergraduate/graduate students and postdocs. Programming skills combined with a genuine interest in experimental work is ideal, but if you are keen on learning either aspect, you will find the opportunity to do so in this lab. Passion is a must.