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BabyLab - Laboratory for early detection of infants at elevated likelihood of language/learning impairment and autism spectrum disorder

Research Center

Principal Investigators

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 - Research Collaborator of the NIDA network
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Dott.ssa Chiara Dondena

Dott.ssa Elena Capelli
Speech Therapist, Psychologist

Dott. Marco Borromini

Dott.ssa Elena Maria Riboldi

Dott.ssa Carolina Beretta


+39 031 877924 - +39 031 877399 



MEDEA BABYLAB, Language Area
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 investigates how these early skills relate to later language and learning outcomes (between 3 and 8 years of age) in both infants with and without familial risk for LLI (siblings of children with LLI).
Our techniques include examination of auditory evoked response brain potentials (EEG/ERPs), as well as behavioural 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 disorder (ASD) is possible starting from the study of biomarkers and (a)typical developmental trajectories in the first years of life. Our research focuses on the study of (multi)sensory integration in a longitudinal sample of infants at elevated likelihood of developing ASD (siblings of children with ASD), using experimental techniques for studying brain and behaviour in infants (EEG and eye-tracking).
Since 2013, we have been collaborating with the Italian Network for early identification of Autism Spectrum Disorder (NIDA network–coordinated by National Institute of Health, Dr. Maria Luisa Scattoni). NIDA is a prestigious network of the most important Italian research and clinical centers studying and monitoring infants at elevated likelihood of being autistic. The goal of the network is to facilitate the implementation of a common protocol of standardized and experimental measures.

Selected publications

  • Riva, V., Villa, L., Fulceri, F., Arduino, G. M., Leonti, G., Valeri, G., Casula, L., Zoccante, L., Puttini, E., Sogos, C., Presicce, M., Bentenuto, A., Apicella, F., Molteni, M., & Scattoni, M. L. (2023). The teleNIDA: Early Screening of Autism Spectrum Disorder Through a Novel Telehealth Approach. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-023-05927-6
  • Riva, V., Riboldi, E. M., Dondena, C., Piazza, C., Molteni, M., & Cantiani, C. (2022). Atypical ERP responses to audiovisual speech integration and sensory responsiveness in infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder. Infancy, 27(2), 369–388. https://doi.org/10.1111/infa.12456
  • Cantiani, C., Dondena, C., Molteni, M., Riva, V., & Piazza, C. (2022). Synchronizing with the rhythm: Infant neural entrainment to complex musical and speech stimuli. Frontiers in Psychology, 13(October), 1–13 https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.944670
  • Mornati G, Riva V, Vismara E, Molteni M, Cantiani C. Infants aged 12 months use the gender feature in determiners to anticipate upcoming words: an eye-tracking study. J Child Lang. 2022 Mar 28:1-19. https://doi.org/10.1017/s030500092200006x
  • Bettoni R, Cantiani C, Riva V, Molteni M, Macchi Cassia V, Bulf H. Visual Implicit Learning Abilities in Infants at Familial Risk for Language and Learning Impairments. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Feb 8;19(3):1877. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19031877
  • Dondena C, Riva V, Molteni M, Musacchia G, Cantiani C. Impact of Early Rhythmic Training on Language Acquisition and Electrophysiological Functioning Underlying Auditory Processing: Feasibility and Preliminary Findings in Typically Developing Infants. Brain Sci. 2021 Nov 21;11(11):1546. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11111546
  • Bettoni R, Riva V, Cantiani C, Riboldi EM, Molteni M, Macchi Cassia V, Bulf H. Dysfunctions in Infants' Statistical Learning are Related to Parental Autistic Traits. J Autism Dev Disord. 2021 Dec;51(12):4621-4631. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-021-04894-0
  • Riva V, Riboldi EM, Urbani B, Molteni M, Villa L. A Pilot Study Evaluating the Effects of Early Intervention for Italian Siblings of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Brain Sci. 2021 Oct 21;11(11):1381. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11111381
  • Cantiani, C., Riva, V., Dondena, C., Riboldi, E. M., Lorusso, M. L., & Molteni, M. (2021). Detection without further processing or processing without automatic detection? Differential ERP responses to lexical-semantic processing in toddlers at high clinical risk for autism and language disorder. Cortex, 141, 465–481. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2021.04.020
  • Cantiani, C., Dondena, C., Capelli, E., Riboldi, E. M., Molteni, M., & Riva, V. (2021). Effects of COVID-19 lockdown on the emotional and behavioral profiles of preschool Italian children with and without familial risk for neurodevelopmental disorders. Brain Sciences, 11(4). https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11040477
  • Riva, V., Caruso, A., Apicella, F., Valeri, G., Vicari, S., Molteni, M., & Scattoni, M. L. (2021). Early developmental trajectories of expressive vocabulary and gesture production in a longitudinal cohort of Italian infants at high-risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Research, 14(7), 1421–1433. https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.2493
  • Bettoni R, Riva V, Cantiani C, Molteni M, Macchi Cassia V, Bulf H. Infants' Learning of Rule-Based Visual Sequences Predicts Language Outcome at 2 Years. Front Psychol. 2020 Feb 25;11:281. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00281
  • Piazza C, Cantiani C, Miyakoshi M, Riva V, Molteni M, Reni G, Makeig S. EEG Effective Source Projections Are More Bilaterally Symmetric in Infants Than in Adults. Front Hum Neurosci. 2020 Mar 12;14:82. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2020.00082
  • Cantiani C, Piazza C, Mornati G, Molteni M, Riva V. Oscillatory gamma activity mediates the pathway from socioeconomic status to language acquisition in infancy. Infant Behav 2019 Nov;57:101384. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2019.101384
  • Riva, V., Marino, C., Piazza, C., Riboldi, E. M., Mornati, G., Molteni, M., & Cantiani, C. (2019). Paternal—but not maternal—autistic traits predict frontal EEG alpha asymmetry in infants with later symptoms of autism. Brain Sciences, 9(12). https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci9120342
  • 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. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-19009-y
  • 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. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhx115
  • 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. https://doi.org/10.1037/neu0000376
  • Cantiani C, Riva V, Piazza C, Melesi G, Mornati G, Bettoni R, Marino C, Molteni M. ERP responses to lexical-semantic processing in typically developing toddlers, in adults, and in toddlers at risk for language and learning impairment. 2017 Aug;103:115-130. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.06.031
  • 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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.02.060
  • Cantiani C, Riva V, Piazza C, Bettoni R, Molteni M, Choudhury N, Marino C, Benasich AA. Auditory discrimination predicts linguistic outcome in Italian infants with and without risk for language-learning impairment. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2016; 20:23-34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2016.03.002


  • NIDA network – The Italian network for early detection of autism spectrum disorders (NIDA) coordinated by Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Dr. Maria Luisa Scattoni
  • MinDev Lab, Department of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca
  • Prof. Maria Teresa Guasti, 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. Cecilia Marino, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) University of Toronto (Canada)
  • Dr.ssa Gabriella Musacchia, Department of Audiology, University of the Pacific, USA & Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Dr. Livio Provenzi, IRCCS Mondino Foundation, University of Pavia
  • Eng. Lucia Billeci, National Research Council, Institute of Clinical Physiology, Pisa


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