Marcello Massimini

Marcello Massimini


  • Fellow
  • Azrieli Brain, Mind & Consciousness


  • University of Milan
Department of Biomedical Clinical Sciences


  • Italy


PhD (Neurophysiology), University of Milan
MD (Medicine), University of Milan


Marcello Massimini’s research is devoted to understanding changes in thalamocortical networks when consciousness fades and recovers, such as when we sleep and reawaken.

After studying EEG oscillations in cortical neurons during anesthesia, he performed the first high-density EEG recordings in sleeping humans, to describe the spatial-temporal dynamics of sleep slow oscillations. He then focused on developing a novel technique (TMS and simultaneous hd-EEG) for studying cortico-cortical interactions from a perturbative perspective. Using this approach during wakefulness, sleep, dreaming, different types of anesthesia and brain injury, he demonstrated that consciousness is tied to the brain’s capacity to integrate information. These experiments shed new light on the mechanisms of consciousness loss and recovery and led to the development of a bedside index of brain complexity, which has important consequences for the stratification of non-responsive patients. In addition to neurophysiology, Massimini is interested in the theoretical and philosophical implications of the neuroscience of consciousness.


James S. McDonnel Scholar Award, James S. McDonnel Foundation, 2013

Early Career Award, World Sleep Federation, 2011

Premio SIPF 2011, Italian Society of Psychophysiology

Sanofi-Aventis Research Award, European Society of Sleep Research, 2006

Pickwick Post-Doctoral Fellowship, American Sleep Foundation, 2002

Relevant Publications

Massimini, M., and G. Tononi. Sizing Up Consciousness: Towards an Objective Measure of the Capacity for Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Previously published as Nulla di più grande. Dalla veglia al sonno, dal coma al sogno: il segreto della coscienza e la sua misura. Italy: Baldini and Castoldi, 2013, and translated into Japanese and Korean.

Casarotto, S. et al. “Stratification of unresponsive patients by an independently validated index of brain perturbational complexity.” Ann Neurol 80, no. 5 (November 2016): 718–29.

Sarasso, S. et al. “Consciousness and Complexity during Unresponsiveness Induced by Propofol, Xenon, and Ketamine.” Current Biology 25, no. 23 (December 2015): 3099–3105.

Casali, Adenauer et al. “A theoretically based index of consciousness independent of sensory processing and behavior.” Science Translational Medicine 14, no. 5 (August 2013): 198.

Rosanova, Mario et al. “Recovery of cortical effective connectivity and recovery of consciousness in vegetative patients.” Brain 135, no.4 (2012): 1308–1320.
Massimini, Marcello et al. “Breakdown of cortical effective connectivity during sleep.” Science 309 (2005): 2228–2232.