Early intervention in high-risk newborns: the VISIBLE project

Andrea Guzetta

Andrea Guzzetta

  • 2004-2006: Full-time Researcher at the Stella Maris Scientific Institute, Pisa, Italy
  • 2007-2009 and 2011-2013: Consultant Child Neurologist at the Dpt. of Developmental Neuroscience, Stell Senior Research Fellow, UQCPRRC, University of Queensland
  • 2013-2016: Research Assistant Professor, Dpt. of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Pisa, Italy
  • 2011-current: Director of Stella Maris Infant Lab for Early Intervention (SMILE), Pisa, Italy
  • 2016-current: Associate Professor, Dpt. of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Pisa, Italy

Dr Guzzetta main research has focused on the effects of early brain damage on the development of different functions and the underlying neuroplastic mechanisms, with the final aim to improve early intervention paradigms and outcomes. In his still relatively short research career he has provided some significant contribution to a number of research questions in the area, thanks to his compound training experiences in some of the most productive European centres in the field, including the Hammersmith Hospital and the Visual Development Unit in London (Great Britain) and the Department of Child Neurology in Tuebingen (Germany).

His major scientific contributions have been achieved in the following areas.

  • Early prediction of functional outcome in infants with brain damage using neonatal brain imaging.
  • The early assessment of visual functions and diagnosis of cerebral visual impairment.
  • The early neurological assessment in infants at neurological risk.
  • Brain plasticity in congenital lesions.
  • The effect of neurodevelopmental interventions on brain maturation.

Dr. Guzzetta current research focus builds upon these contributions, and includes:

  • Advanced brain imaging focused on the study of structural differences in brain reorganization between subjects with congenital brain damage and those with acquired lesions (e.g. DTI, cortical connectivity, etc.). A better understanding of causal pathways to functional impairment is essential for improving early therapies.
  • New early interventions based on the stimulation of the mirror neuron system to activate the motor cortex and thus influence the pattern of cortical reorganization. The theory of mirror neurons can have the power to revolutionize the field of early motor rehabilitation, although the field is still completely unexplored.
  • New early interventions based on the environmental enrichment of preterm born infants. Reducing the risk for neurodevelopmental complications of preterm birth might have enormous social and economic positive consequences.

Dr Guzzetta received the prestigious Heinz Prechtl Award for Developmental Neurology in 2012.

H-index (Jan 2020): 40 (google scholar)

Early intervention in high-risk newborns: the VISIBLE project

In this presentation, I will describe the framework of a recently funded project of ours, the VISIBLE Project. It is an RCT study of a rehabilitative intervention for infants with brain damage and severe vision impairments. Infants with severe cerebral visual impairment (CVI) and at high risk of Cerebral Palsy (CP) at 3-6 months will be enrolled.

The daily intervention activities will be provided by the parents and will focus on environmental enrichment and targeted vision-aware developmental goals. Rational, goals and possible barriers will be discussed in an attempt of providing the framework for other intervention RCTs in infants.

Video recorded during the Pisa Summer School on July 15, 2019