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Secrets of formula 1 driver's brain revealed

Prize winner: young post graduate from the clinical biochemistry and molecular biology laboratory (of the aoup- pisa university hospital)

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pilotiGiulio Bernardi, a young medical research post graduate student of Clinical Biochemistry at the Departments of Laboratory Medicine and Molecular Diagnostics  ( University Hospital), both headed by Prof. Pietro Pietrini, has received prestigious recognition by the Organisation for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM), the principal world organisation for the study of the functional metabolic mapping of the human brain. 

By utilising a functional magnetic resonance image scan (fMRI), Giulio Bernardi investigated the cerebral mechanisms underlying elaboration of visual-motor information in the brains of Formula 1 drivers and 'naïve subjects' (normal drivers, not experts).  The results of the study show that, compared to 'naïve subjects', Formula 1 drivers have a diverse functional connectivity among the distinct cerebral regions implicated in their visual-motor processes.  These data suggest a functional reorganisation of the cerebral visual-motor networks in individuals with particular skills, such as those of Formula 1 drivers.  “These results have important implications also for the development of rehabilitation strategies in patients suffering from strokes or other cerebral damage,” commented Prof. Pietrini.

 Doctor Bernardi's research was one of the few selected from among more than three thousand proposals received from all over the world for participation in the Young Investigator Travel Award at the International Congress of the organisation that will take place next June in Montreal.  Less than 5 percent of the contributions are chosen for the oral presentation and only a small fraction of these are later selected for the Travel Award.

 Dr.Bernard’s award  is only one of the most recent among the many certified recognitions received by the University Hospital of Clinical Biochemistry, which for years has been at the forefront of research into molecular correlates of man's mental functions.  Prof. Pietrini, in fact, was called to take over as President of the Scientific Committee of OHBM  during the three year period from 2007-2009.

(Press Office AOUP)

  • 11 April 2011

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