CNR - Institute of Neuroscience CNR
Institute of Neuroscience


The Institute of Neuroscience of the National Research Council was founded in 1968 by Prof. Giuseppe Moruzzi, Director of the Institute of Physiology of Pisa University, internationally renowned for his research in Neurophysiology. The institute was first called “the Laboratory of Neurophysiology of the CNR”, and was located near the University Institute of Physiology. The director was Prof. Moruzzi himself and the research was devoted especially to sensory physiology using single neuron recording. Then the field of research developed particularly in the study of the visual system, with experiments aimed at recording single cell properties of the retina in parallel with behavioural experiments testing the visual properties of animals. The next step was to enlarge the field of research to include quantitative evaluation of visual functions of man and to compare these with the single neuron properties of the visual system of other mammals. In this field the Pisa CNR institute was very innovative, and it is still internationally recognized as such. In particular, quantitative methods to investigate spatial properties of the visual system, such as contrast sensitivity and visual acuity, were applied to investigate their development early in life both in new born animals and in human infants.

In 1980 Prof. Lamberto Maffei became director of the CNR Laboratory of Neurophysiology, that in 1981 changed name to CNR Institute of Neurophysiology. Prof. Maffei was also Director of the Laboratory of Neurobiology of the Scuola Normale Superiore . This laboratory was a department of the CNR Institute and in the same building.

When in 2000 the CNR Area for Research was built in Pisa, the CNR Institute of Neurophysiology, as was still named, moved to this Area and had a much larger space available than in the previous site. The field of research enlarged to include biochemical molecular properties of visual structures and to investigate how the functional properties of neural structures may be influenced by visual experience during early development and afterwards. The investigation of the plastic modification of the visual system in animals as a consequence of experience has important applications in humans, as regards the effects of total or partial deprivation of visual experience early in life, and has become one of the leading lines of research of the Institute. Recently, the research of the Institute has assumed a more applicative and translational characteristic, from the fields of retinal degeneration to dementia.

In 2001 the Pisa CNR Institute of Neurophysiology changed name to CNR Institute of Neuroscience, and then became the head institute of the Italian CNR Institute of Neuroscience comprising of five CNR institutes located in Pisa, Milano, Padova, Roma and Cagliari. Prof. Tullio Pozzan is at present Director of the Institute.