Foto del docente

Pietro Cortelli

Full Professor

Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences

Academic discipline: MED/26 Neurology


Keywords: Physiopathology of Central Autonomic Network Orthostatic Hypotension and autonomic failure Rare neurologocal diseases Transient Loss od consciousness Parkinsonian Syndromes Sleep Disorders Migraine: physiopathology, genetics and treatment Chronic Migraine: physiopathology and treatment Disorders of thermoregulation Cluster Headache

The research of Prof Pietro Cortelli is on:

1) Genetic and phenotipic characterization of prion diseases (Fatal Familial Insomnia,Creutzfeldt-Jakob,Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker) Parkinson's disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Familial Hemiplegic migraine.

2) The role of the autonomic nervous system in health and disease with a focus on neurological control of the circulation in man. A variety of autonomic disorders, from syncope to sweating abnormalities, are studied. There is a special emphasis in patients with cardiovascular autonomic disorders (in particular postural hypotension), a variety of neurological disorders (such as Parkinsons's disease, Multiple System Atrophy, Pure Autonomic Failure) and sleep disorders involving the autonomic nervous system (such as OSAS, Ondine syndrome).

3) Evaluation of autonomic circadian rhythms in neurodegenerative disorders and particularly in prion diseases

4) Autonomic, clinical and neurophysiological aspects of mitochondrial diseases

5) Autonomic, clinical, neurophysiological, functional imaging  evaluation of primary headache

6) Sleep disorders

The Autonomic Unit at “Clinica Neurologica”, Department of “Scienze Neurologiche”, University of Bologna is actively involved in clinical research, both integrative and reductionist; this is reflected in the publications from our Units.  All the research currently conducted is in humans on the role of the autonomic nervous system in health and disease, with a particular emphasis on the neurological and neurohormonal control of the cardiovascular system during the wake and sleep state.  Other systems – sudomotor and gastrointestinal, and their involvement in many diseases is studied.  There is active collaboration between the Units and other colleagues and Departments together with collaboration at other Universities, in Italy and abroad.  A further feature of the research is the utilisation of non-invasive approaches, which within the Units involve a combination of physiological, biochemical and pharmacological techniques. These, together with other facilities such as neuro-imaging (positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance scanning) (directed by other colleagues) and as a special investigation room for the evaluation of autonomic circadian rhythms,  enable in-depth, in vivo studies on multiple occasions in a number of patient groups.  These include patients with a wide range of neurological disorders (such as the primary autonomic failure syndromes and Parkinson's disease), and general medical disorders (hypertension), those who fall between major disciplines (syncope due to vaso-vagal in the young and carotid sinus hypersensitivity in the elderly) and in addition, select groups such as those with Fatal Familial Insomnia, Cluster Haedache, Slerodermia, Narcolepsy and sleep related breathing disorders (OSAS).  The Unit is also active in the application of novel technology and in evolving newer diagnostic techniques, such as automatic analysis of cardiovascular reflexes and heart rate variability. There are research interests in other aspects of autonomic dysfunction, such as sudomotor disorders and gastro-intestinal tract dysfunction.  There are studies in patients with spinal cord injuries, designed to determine ANS functions in wake and sleep conditions, with “Unità Spinale” at “Ospedale Carreggi, Firenze”.  Research continues to contribute to understanding both physiological and pathophysiological processes in humans, using clinical neurological models. 

Research funding has been from a variety of sources, with major funding being through competitive project and equipment grants from the RFO (University of Bologna), PRIN (Ministero della Ricerca) , Finalizzata (Ministero della Salute). Research Fellows from the Unit have progressed on to career posts (Consultants/Senior Lecturers) mainly in neurology.