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Giulio Tononi is an Italian psychiatrist who specializes in neuroscience. Director of the Center for Sleep and Consciousness Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he has been professor of psychiatry at the University of Madison-Wisconsin and has developed together with Chiara Chirelli the hypothesis of ” synaptic homeostasis “(Synaptic Homeostasis Hypothesis), which states that deep sleep is necessary to recover or restore a basic level of synaptic activity.
A second topic of his research focuses on answering the question “how is human consciousness produced or arrived at?” Tononi developed the Integrated Information Theory (IIT).
Tononi was born in Trento (Italy), son of the politician Giorgio Tononi. He obtained an MD and a PhD in neurobiology at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa (Italy).
He is an authority in the dream, and in particular, the genetics and the etiology of sleep Tononi and his collaborators have been pioneers in several complementary approaches to the study of sleep:
- fruit fly models
- Rodent models that use multiple units / local field of possible recordings in behaving animals
- microscopy and voltammetry in vivo
- high density of EEG records and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in humans
- large-scale computer sleep and wake models
This research has led to a general hypothesis about the proposed sleep function with the dream researcher Chiara Cirelli, the so-called hypothesis of synaptic homeostasis. According to the hypothesis, wakefulness leads to a net increase in synaptic strength, and sleep is necessary to restore synaptic homeostasis. The hypothesis has implications for the understanding of the effects of sleep deprivation and for the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for sleep disorders and neuropsychiatric disorders.
Tononi is also a leader in the field of consciousness studies, and has co-authored a book on the subject with Nobel Prize winner Gerald M. Edelman. He developed the theory Integrated Information (IIT): a scientific theory of what consciousness is, how it can be measured, how it correlates with the states of the brain and why it fades when we sleep without dreams and returns when we dream. The theory is being tested with neuroimaging, TMS, and computer models. His work has been described as “the only really promising fundamental theory about consciousness” by Christof Koch.
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