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BabyLab - Laboratory for early detection of infants at high-risk for language and learning impairment and autism spectrum disorders

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Dott.ssa Chiara Cantiani
PhD - Coordinator, MEDEA BABYLAB, Language Area Responsible for the EEG laboratory - BabyLab
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Dott.ssa Valentina Riva
PhD - Coordinator, MEDEA BABYLAB, Autism Area - Collaborator network NIDA
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Dott.ssa Giulia Mornati

Dott.ssa Elena Riboldi


+39 031 877924



Our studies focus on the early risk markers for language and learning impairments (LLI) in infancy. Our ultimate goals include the examination of the typical an atypical developmental trajectories and the implementation of innovative and ecological early interventions.

Our ongoing longitudinal study examines a number of early neuropsychological skills and neural processes during the first year of life and investigate how these early skills relate to later cognitive and linguistic outcomes in typically developing infants and in infants at familial risk for LLI (siblings of children with LLI).

Our techniques include examination of auditory evoked response brain potentials (EEG/ERPs), as well as behavioral and observational techniques. We complement this approach with a perspective that takes genetic risk markers and multiple environmental risks into consideration.

Recently, an innovative early intervention on auditory enrichment, based on musical and rhythmic training, has been developed and implemented. A study on the efficacy of this intervention in terms of altering EEG/ERPs responses and preventing/ameliorating language impairment is actually ongoing.

Understanding autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is possible starting from the study of risk markers and (a)typical developmental trajectories in the first years of life. Using newly developed techniques for studying brain and behaviour in infants, our research focuses on the electroencephalogram (EEG) and event-related potentials (ERP), as potential objective, early markers that can detect the most vulnerable infants, who are at highest risk for ASD.

Further, our work aims to understand how genetic and environmental factors shape infant developmental trajectories of risk in the first years of life. Infancy is the ideal time window to study the influence of risk factors upon development. Identifying risk factors means identifying niches at heightened risk, which may become targets of prevention and early intervention.

Since 2013, we have been collaborating with the Italian Network for early identification of Autism Spectrum Disorder (NIDA network–coordinated by Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Dr. Maria Luisa Scattoni). NIDA is a prestigious network of the most important Italian research and clinical centers studying and monitoring infants at high-risk for autism, compared to controls. The goal of the network is to facilitate the implementation of a common protocol of standardized and experimental measures.

Selected publications

  • Riva V, Cantiani C, Mornati G, Gallo M, Villa L, Mani E, Saviozzi I, Marino C, Molteni M. Distinct ERP profiles for auditory processing in infants at-risk for autism and language impairment. Scientific Reports, 2018; 15;8(1):715.
  • Cantiani C, Riva V, Piazza, C, Melesi G, Mornati G, Bettoni R, Marino, C, Molteni, M. ERP signatures of cross-modal semantic priming in the typically and atypically developing brain. Neuropsychologia, 2017; 103:115-130.
  • Riva V, Cantiani C, Dionne G, Marini A, Mascheretti S, Molteni M, Marino C. Verbal working memory mediates the effects of duration of pregnancy on language. Neuropsychology, 2017; 31(5):475-485.
  • Riva V, Cantiani C, Benasich AA, Molteni M, Piazza C, Dionne G, Marino C. From CNTNAP2 to early expressive language in infancy: the mediation role of auditory processing. Cerebral Cortex, 2017; 11:1-9.
  • Piazza C, Cantiani C, Akalin-Acar Z, Miyakoshi M, Benasich AA, Reni G, Bianchi AM, Makeig S. ICA-derived cortical responses indexing rapid multi-feature auditory processing in six-month-old infants. Neuroimage, 2016; 133:75-87.
  • Cantiani C, Riva V, Piazza C, Bettoni R, Molteni M, Choudhury N, Marino C, Benasich AA. Multi-feature auditory discrimination predicts linguistic outcome in Italian infants with and without risk for language-learning impairment. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2016; 20:23-34.


  • NIDA network – The Italian network for early detection of autism spectrum disorders (NIDA) coordinated by Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Dr. Maria Luisa Scattoni
  • Prof. Hermann Bulf, Prof. Viola Macchi Cassia, Department of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca
  • Prof. April A. Benasich, Infancy Studies Laboratory, Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers University-Newark, USA
  • Prof Ginette Dionne, Laval University, School of Psychology, Québec, Canada
  • Prof. Cecilia Marino, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) University of Toronto (Canada)
  • Dr. Gabriella Musacchia, Department of Audiology, University of the Pacific, USA & Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine


© I.R.C.C.S. Medea - Associazione La Nostra Famiglia C.F.-P.IVA 00307430132