Sara Di Girolamo

Curriculum Vitae

Born on 9th December 1993, in 2016 she achieved the Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences and in 2019 the Master’s Degree in Biology at the University of Milano-Bicocca. She developed her final thesis, entitled “Nicotinic regulation of Regular Spiking Non-Pyramidal cells in premotor layer V of mice expressing or not mutant nicotinic subunits linked to sleep-related epilepsy“, during the internship carried out in the Neurophysiology laboratory of Professor Andrea Becchetti at the University of Milano-Bicocca. The latter allowed her to acquire deep theoretical knowledge concerning various aspects of neuroscience and a particular practical experience in the autonomous management of the animal enclosure containing transgenic and non-transgenic mice, as well as in molecular biology and electrophysiological techniques in cell cultures, ex vivo and in vivo.

In 2019, she won a scholarship at the Research Unit of San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, INSPE, in the Experimental Neurophysiology laboratory of Professor Letizia Leocani. Here, she took part in a study concerning a Multiple Sclerosis mouse model (EAE) and performing in vivo electrophysiological recordings (VEP, MEP, ERG), behavioural and histological experiments, with the final aim of testing a possible therapy through the technique of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS).

Since 2020, she has become a PhD student in Neuroscience at the University of Milano-Bicocca in the Human Physiology laboratory of Professor Giulio Alfredo Sancini.

PhD Research Project

Air pollution effects on synaptic plasticity and neurotransmission in hippocampal and cortical neurons linked to the development of neurodegenerative disease.

  • Curriculum: Experimental Neuroscience
  • Tutor: Giulio Alfredo Sancini

In recent years, human epidemiological and animal studies show how the Central Nervous System (CNS) is emerging as an important target for adverse health effects of air pollution (AP), where they may be strongly associated with neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders (Costa L.G. et al., 2017; Genc S. et al., 2012). 

The exact and specific mechanisms by which air pollutants mediate neurotoxicity in the CNS and lead to AD remain largely unknown (Kilian J. and Kitazawa M., 2018), but the most prominent effects caused by AP in both humans and animals seem to be oxidative stress and neuro-inflammation in various brain regions, particularly in the hippocampus (Costa L.G. et al., 2017; Moulton P.V. and Yang W., 2012; Block M.L. and Calderón-Garcidueñas L., 2009). Moreover, different studies demonstrate how exposure to environmental air pollutants induces synaptic plasticity impairment, both directly and indirectly.

General aim of this experimental project is to gain better knowledge of the AP neurotoxic effects on the CNS. In particular, this study investigates how air pollutants modify and invalidate delicate and complex mechanisms on which synaptic plasticity depends, including LTP and multiple neurotransmission signals of hippocampal and cortical neuronal cells, whose function is at the base of the learning and memory process. Consequently, the research follows in the deepening of a possible correlation between the exposure to environmental AP and growing risk of cognitive impairment development, resulting in different neurodegenerative disease manifestations, including AD. The final aim of this project is to achieve a better understanding of the overall physiological mechanisms of cerebral neuro-communication and, finally, to lay the foundations for the development of new therapies and preventions.


“Different nicotinic receptor (nAChR) subtypes regulate glutamate and GABA release onto regular spiking non pyramidal cells in prefrontal (Fr2) layer V”.  Meneghini S., Di Girolamo S., Modena D., Amedeo A., Becchetti A.  – International Meeting FEPS-SIF 2019.

Conferences and Congresses

  • European Neuroscience Conference for Doctoral Students (ENCODS) 2021, on 4-6th June 2021.
  • “3 anni, 3R” Conference, on 2nd February 2021.
  • Sixth NeuroMi International Meeting 2020 “Milan Center for Neuroscience”, on 18th December 2020.
  • “RIN 2020 – Rete IRCCS delle Neuroscienze e della Neuroriabilitazione” Congress, on 24-25th March 2020. 
  • “Bioetica OSR 2020” Conference, on 17th September 2020.
  • “Sclerosi Multipla: la persona, il suo vissuto e le speranze” OSR Conference, on 30th September 2020.
  • “Covid-19: Come si insegue e sconfigge un virus” UniStem Conference, on 28-29th May 2020.
  • “La Percezione Pubblica della Scienza” UniStem Conference, on 27-28th April 2020.
  • International Meeting FEPS-SIF 2019 – Federation of European Physiological Societies and Italian Physiological Society, on 10-13th September 2019. 
  • Fourth NeuroMI International Meeting 2018 “Brain Stimulation and Brain Plasticity: from Basic Research to Clinical Practice”, on 21st-22nd-23rd November 2018.

Further Information