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Fabio Ferrarelli, MD, PhD

  • Director of the Sleep and Schizophrenia Program, Department of Psychiatry
  • Assistant Professor, Psychiatry

    Education & Training

  • Graduate School – Catholic University of Sacred Heart – PhD – Neuroscience
  • Medical School – Catholic University of Sacred Heart – MD
  • Post-Doctoral – University of Wisconsin – Neuroscience
  • Residency – Western Psychiatry Institute & Clinic of UPMC - Psychiatry
Research Grants

NIH Grants:  R01, R21

Research Summary

Dr. Ferrarelli conducts research on the neurobiology of schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders, with a focus on the identification of biomarkers implicated in the development and manifestation of those disorders. He is currently investigating the molecular, neural, and behavioral aspects of psychosis, emphasizing the value of integrating multiple research techniques for elucidating the pathophysiology of major psychotic disorders and ultimately improving their treatments. Dr. Ferrarelli has been examining neurophysiological abnormalities during wakefulness and sleep in early course psychosis employing cutting-edge research methodologies, such as high density (hd)-EEG and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) with hd-EEG. Extending this work to individuals at risk for psychosis, Dr. Ferrarelli is currently Principal Investigator on a NIMH-funded R01 (1R01MH113827, “Characterize differences in sleep spindles between Clinical High Risk and healthy controls longitudinally"), as well as of a R21 (1R21MH119543, "Reduced natural oscillatory frequency of DLPFC in early course SCZ: a TMS/EEG study"). Using a longitudinal design and multiple levels of analysis, from clinical to molecular, the first study aims at providing new insights into the vulnerability to, development of, and early intervention strategies for schizophrenia and related disorders, whereas the latter examines the role of reduced DLPFC oscillatory activity as a neurophysiological biomarker of SCZ, which is present in early course patients and mediate their impaired cognitive performance. Dr. Ferrarelli has been actively involved in teaching and mentoring trainees, including undergraduates, graduate students, medical students, psychiatry residents, and postdoctoral fellows. He has provided extensive mentorship, including eight undergraduates, six graduate students, and two post-doctoral fellows on several cutting-edge research techniques, including hd-EEG, TMS, and fMRI applied to both healthy and psychiatric populations. He also works as an attending psychiatrist at the Services for the Treatment of Early Psychosis (STEP) clinic. Through teaching, lectures, mentoring, and clinical supervision, he has contributed to fostering the career development of junior researchers and in-training investigators. As a psychiatrist with extensive research experience, he is highly motivated to train the next generation of physician-scientists interested in the pathophysiology and treatment of major neuropsychiatric disorders.

Representative Publications
  1. Kaskie RE, Graziano B, Ferrarelli F. Topographic deficits in sleep spindle density and duration point to frontal thalamo-cortical dysfunctions in first-episode psychosis. J Psychiatr Res. 2019 Jun;113:39-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2019.03.009. Epub 2019 Mar 11. PMID: 30878791
  2. Ferrarelli F, Kaskie R, Laxminarayan S, Ramakrishnan S, Reifman J, Germain A. An increase in sleep slow waves predicts better working memory performance in healthy individuals. Neuroimage. 2019 May 1;191:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.02.020. Epub 2019 Feb 10. PMID: 30753924
  3. Ferrarelli F, Kaskie RE, Graziano B, Reis CC, Casali AG. Abnormalities in the evoked frontal oscillatory activity of first-episode psychosis: A TMS/EEG study. Schizophr Res. 2018 Nov 22. pii: S0920-9964(18)30638-8. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2018.11.008. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 30473213.
  4. Kaskie RE, Gill KM, Ferrarelli F. Reduced frontal slow wave density during sleep in first-episode psychosis. Schizophr Res. 2018 Oct 27. pii: S0920-9964(18)30626-1. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2018.10.024. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 30377012.
  5. Wilckens KA, Ferrarelli F, Walker MP, Buysse DJ. Slow-Wave Activity Enhancement to Improve Cognition. Trends Neurosci. 2018 Jul;41(7):470-482. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2018.03.003. Epub 2018 Apr 5. Review. PubMed PMID: 29628198; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6015540.
  6. Kaskie RE, Ferrarelli F. Investigating the neurobiology of schizophrenia and other major psychiatric disorders with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. Schizophr Res. 2017 May 3. PMID: 28478887
  7. Castelnovo A, D'Agostino A, Casetta C, Sarasso S, Ferrarelli F. Sleep Spindle Deficit in Schizophrenia: Contextualization of Recent Findings. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2016 Aug; 18(8):72. PMID: 27299655
  8. Ferrarelli F, Riedner BA, Peterson MJ, Tononi G. Altered prefrontal activity and connectivity predict different cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. Hum Brain Mapp. 2015 Nov; 36(11):4539-52. PMID: 26288380
  9. Buchmann A, Dentico D, Peterson MJ, Riedner BA, Sarasso S, Massimini M, Tononi G, Ferrarelli F. Reduced mediodorsal thalamic volume and prefrontal cortical spindle activity in schizophrenia. Neuroimage. 2014 Nov 15; 102 Pt 2:540-7. PMID: 25139002