Francesca Cirulli

Francesca Cirulli
Istituto Superiore di Sanità | ISS · Center for Behavioral Sciences and Mental Health

PhD
We address mechanisms underlying vulnerability and resilience to stress for treatment and prevention of mental disorders

About

249
Publications
44,155
Reads
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6,388
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Introduction
Francesca Cirulli is a senior researcher and group leader in the Center for Behavioral Sciences and Mental Health, Istituto Superiore di Sanità. Francesca is involved in research in the field of Behavioral Neuroscience, with a special interest in the Neurobiology of Stress. Main current project is EMBED 'Impact of Early life MetaBolic and psychosocial strEss on susceptibility to mental Disorders; from converging epigenetic signatures to novel targets for therapeutic intervention'
Additional affiliations
January 2017 - January 2017
Istituto Superiore di Sanità
Position
  • Senior Researcher
January 2007 - January 2017
Istituto Superiore di Sanità
Position
  • Senior Researcher
January 1994 - December 2012
Istituto Superiore di Sanità

Publications

Publications (249)
Article
The long-term consequences of psychosocial and socioeconomic challenges are hardly distinguishable from those of inappropriate nutrition, suggesting the existence of common physiological pathways funnelling the effects of early adversity. Obesity and mood disorders are highly prevalent and co-morbid in adult subjects. In order to unravel such co-mo...
Article
Maternal obesity plays a key role in the health trajectory of the offspring. Although research on this topic has largely focused on the potential of this condition to increase the risk for child obesity, it is becoming more and more evident that it can also significantly impact cognitive function and mental health. The mechanisms underlying these e...
Article
Full-text available
Over the last decades a decrease in mortality has paved the way for late onset pathologies such as cardiovascular, metabolic or neurodegenerative diseases. This evidence has led many researchers to shift their focus from researching ways to extend lifespan to finding ways to increase the number of years spent in good health; “healthspan” is indeed...
Article
Full-text available
Adverse stressful experiences in utero can redirect fetal brain development, ultimately leading to increased risk for psychiatric disorders. Obesity during pregnancy can have similar effects as maternal stress, affecting mental health outcomes in the offspring. In order to explain how similar outcomes may originate from different prenatal condition...
Article
Background The mental health of the Italian population declined at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, nationwide population prevalence estimates may not effectively reproduce the heterogeneity in distress responses to the pandemic. In particular, contextual determinants specific to COVID-19 pandemic need to be considered. We thus aimed to...
Technical Report
Full-text available
The natural environment is recognized as an important factor for the prevention and promotion of health, including mental health. Practices and processes taking place in Italy on the theme of social agriculture are reported. By using agricultural resources, such as animals and plants, social farming is able to meet specific social needs, including...
Article
Liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry is a key metabolomics/metabonomics technology. Reversed-phase liquid chromatography (RPLC) is very widely used as a separation step, but typically has poor retention of highly polar metabolites. Here, we evaluated the combination of two alternative methods for improving retention of polar metabolit...
Article
Background The aim of this study was to explore the psychopathological burden related to COVID-19 together with coping strategies in healthcare workers, focusing on differences between frontline and second-line workers. Methods This is a cross-sectional study part of the COvid Mental hEalth Trial (COMET). Participants' socio-demographic and COVID-...
Article
Full-text available
IntroductionAnimal Assisted Interventions (AAIs) are increasingly common in pediatric care settings as a means to promote the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of hospitalized children and adolescents.Objectives The aim of this work was to review published studies implementing AAIs in hospital settings and to assess the effects of AAIs on...
Article
Full-text available
COVID-19 pandemic and its related containment measures have been associated with increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression in the general population. While the use of digital media has been greatly promoted by national governments and international authorities to maintain social contacts and healthy lifestyle behaviors, its increased acces...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental condition that affects the whole family. The gap between childrens' needs and their satisfaction, especially regarding what concerns the presence of social and healthcare services, is still a source of burden, particularly after the transition to adulthood. Our study aimed to ga...
Preprint
Full-text available
Liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry is a key metabolomics technology. Reversed-phase liquid chromatog-raphy (RPLC) is very widely used as a separation step, possessing excellent characteristics with respect to reproducibility and reliability, but typically has poor retention of highly polar metabolites. Here, we evaluated the combina...
Preprint
Liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry is a key metabolomics technology. Reversed-phase liquid chromatog-raphy (RPLC) is very widely used as a separation step, possessing excellent characteristics with respect to reproducibility and reliability, but typically has poor retention of highly polar metabolites. Here, we evaluated the combina...
Article
Full-text available
Background: When facing a traumatic event, some people may experience positive changes, defined as posttraumatic growth (PTG). Methods: Understanding the possible positive consequences of the pandemic on the individual level is crucial for the development of supportive psychosocial interventions. The present paper aims to: 1) evaluate the levels...
Article
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the mental and physical health of the general population at any age, but it is expected to have a protracted and severe consequences for younger populations. The pandemic has had several consequences on mental health including anger and irritability, depressive symptoms and somatic complaints, insomnia, lack of mo...
Preprint
Liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry is a key metabolomics technology. Reversed-phase liquid chromatog-raphy (RPLC) is very widely used as a separation step, possessing excellent characteristics with respect to reproducibility and reliability, but typically has poor retention of highly polar metabolites. Here, we evaluated the combina...
Preprint
Liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry is a key metabolomics technology. Reversed-phase liquid chromatog-raphy (RPLC) is very widely used as a separation step, possessing excellent characteristics with respect to reproducibility and reliability, but typically has poor retention of highly polar metabolites. Here, we evaluated the combina...
Article
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented public health emergency, with consequences at the political, social, and economic levels. Mental health services have been called to play a key role in facing the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of the general population. In the period March–May 2020, an online survey was implemented as...
Article
Full-text available
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health are now well documented, however, few studies have been focused on the role of coping strategies and resilience in counterbalancing these detrimental effects. Data are derived from the COvid Mental hEalth Trial (COMET), a national multicentric trial carried out in the Italian general population....
Article
Background: Severe psychological and psychosocial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are expected, especially for people already vulnerable to biological or psychosocial stressors, including those with mental health problems. The study aimed to investigate factors associated with the loss of jobs and unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic. I...
Article
Full-text available
Little is known about the impact of equine-assisted interventions (EAI) on equids’ perception of humans. In this study 172 equids, living in 12 riding centres, were submitted to a standardised human–horse relationship test: the motionless person test. Age, sex, type (horse/pony), housing, and feeding conditions of subjects were recorded. Overall, 1...
Article
Full-text available
Social isolation is a powerful stressor capable of affecting brain plasticity and function. In the case of breast cancer, previous data indicate that stressful experiences may contribute to a worse prognosis, activating neuroendocrine and metabolism pathways, although the mechanisms underlying these effects are still poorly understood. In this stud...
Article
Full-text available
Equine-assisted interventions (EAIs) are well-known complementary practices combining physical activity with emotional/cognitive stimulation. They are especially suited for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who need a high degree of physical and psychological enrichment. Even though EAIs have become a common practice, stress responses i...
Article
Full-text available
Due to the global increase in lifespan, the proportion of people showing cognitive impairment is expected to grow exponentially. As target-specific drugs capable of tackling dementia are lagging behind, the focus of preclinical and clinical research has recently shifted towards natural products. Curcumin, one of the best investigated botanical cons...
Article
Full-text available
Several biogerontology databases exist that focus on genetic or gene expression data linked to health as well as survival, subsequent to compound treatments or genetic manipulations in animal models. However, none of these has yet collected experimental results of compound-related health changes. Since quality of life is often regarded as more valu...
Poster
Full-text available
Introduction Animal Assisted Interventions (AAIs) are increasingly introduced in pediatric care settings as a mean to promote the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of hospitalized children and adolescents and the humanization of the hospital environment. Objectives The aim of this work was to review published studies implementing AAIs in...
Article
Introduction Anorexia is a disorder associated with severe disturbances in eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions (distorted weight perception, body dissatisfaction). Multidimensional integrative treatment approaches are needed to act both on intrapersonal (e.g. nutritional and psychological) and interpersonal (e.g. behavioral and affec...
Article
Introduction Maternal obesity may affect foetal programming representing a risk for adult mental health. Oxidative stress and inflammation associated with maternal obesity can alter the maturation of neuronal circuits affecting behaviour and mood. Objectives We investigated the emotional phenotype of male and female mouse offspring born from a hig...
Article
Prenatal stress (PNS) affects foetal programming and, through an interaction with subsequent challenges, can increase vulnerability to mood and metabolic disorders. We have previously shown that, following PNS, adult male rats are characterised by increased vulnerability to a metabolic stressor experienced at adulthood (8‐week‐high‐fat diet ‐ HFD)....
Chapter
Full-text available
Early stressful experiences can hinder brain maturation and increase individual vulnerability for psychopathology. Epigenetic “embedding” of early life adversity could represent a fundamental mechanism promoting the short and long-term changes in biomarkers and health determinants that characterize exposure to early adversity, since epigenetic chan...
Article
Breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, adjuvant therapies and survivorship can all be extremely stressful. In women, concerns about body image are common as a result of the disease and can affect interpersonal relationships, possibly leading to social isolation, increasing the likelihood for mood disorders. This is particularly relevant as women are at...
Article
Full-text available
Exposure to early life stress can interfere with neurodevelopmental trajectories to increase the vulnerability for psychiatric disorders later in life. With this respect, epigenetic mechanisms play a key role for the long-lasting changes in brain functions that may elicit and sustain psychopathologic outcomes. Here, we investigated DNA methylation...
Article
Full-text available
Background The Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is an unprecedented traumatic event influencing the healthcare, economic, and social welfare systems worldwide. In order to slow the infection rates, lockdown has been implemented almost everywhere. Italy, one of the countries most severely affected, entered the “lockdown” on March 8, 2020...
Conference Paper
Obesity during pregnancy may affect offspring developmental trajectories representing a risk factor for mental health. Amongst the mechanisms called into question inflammation, oxidative stress and the hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis appear as the most suitable. We investigated the emotional phenotype of male and fema...
Article
Full-text available
The molecular basis of aging and of aging-associated diseases is being unraveled at an increasing pace. An extended healthspan, and not merely an extension of lifespan, has become the aim of medical practice. Here, we define health based on the absence of diseases and dysfunctions. Based on an extensive review of the literature, in particular for h...
Article
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic and its related containment measures—mainly physical distancing and isolation—are having detrimental consequences on the mental health of the general population worldwide. In particular, frustration, loneliness, and worries about the future are common reactions and represent well-known risk factors for several mental disorders...
Article
Full-text available
Nature-based contextual factors are being recognized as fundamental for mental health prevention and promotion. Rural areas, indeed, are increasingly recognized as an elective place for the promotion of mental health. In recent years there has been a surge of rurally-based hybrid governance models in which public bodies, local communities and econo...
Article
Full-text available
A review about the Italian Guidelines regading Animal Assisted Interventions and te role of th Superior Institute of Health, Health Ministry, Italy
Article
Full-text available
La riabilitazione psichiatrica incentrata sull'attività fisica non è finalizzata solamente alla prestazione agonistica o all'inclusione sociale, ma anche alla promozione di attività fisiche strutturate che, attraverso specifiche tecniche sportive, mirino a contrastare i principali sintomi psicopatologici nell'ambito di ogni singolo programma riabil...
Preprint
Full-text available
The aim of this document is to: 1. Highlight the prevalence of mental health problems and their symptoms in today's society. 2. Highlight specific socio-medical procedures to manage patients with different diagnoses and backgrounds. 3. Provide specific training methods to encourage patients in participating in sports activities. 4. Provide practiti...
Presentation
Full-text available
A pilot project in the field of psychiatric rehabilitation by equestrian sports, directed to people suffering from eating disorders
Article
Full-text available
Aim of this study was to characterize the effects of oral trehalose administration (2%w/v) on healthspan in old mice. Trehalose was administered in drinking water for 1 month to male and female C57Bl/6N mice aged 25-months. After behavioral phenotyping (grip strength, beam walking and rotarod tests), autophagy (LC3II/actin) and oxidative stress wer...
Conference Paper
Bad nutritional habits may accelerate the aging process by disrupting energy metabolism, with non-negligible carry-over effects on emotional and cognitive behaviour. The lack of target-specific drugs able to counteract age-related physical and cognitive decline makes the use of nutraceuticals an appealing alternative strategy. We investigated the a...
Conference Paper
Cognitive decline is a major disability during aging and, due to the global increase in lifespan, the proportion of people affected is expected to grow. The lack of target-specific drugs has shifted the attention to natural products as an appealing alternative. Notwithstanding the interest of the scientific community, the mechanisms of action of th...
Article
Full-text available
Social farming represents a hybrid governance model in which public bodies, local communities, and economic actors act together to promote health and social inclusion in rural areas. Although relational variables are crucial to foster social farm performance, the relational system in which farms are embedded has still not been fully described. Usin...
Poster
Full-text available
Despite international clinical guidelines, our preliminary results confirm that families of young adults with ASD still experience a lack of services during the transition to adulthood and long term support. Overall, parents reported a scarcity of follow-up programs for medical, psychiatric, and daily needs as well as interventions suited at an ind...
Article
Full-text available
Tamoxifen resistance is a major hurdle in the treatment of estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer. The mechanisms of tamoxifen resistance are not fully understood although several underlying molecular events have been suggested. Recently, we identified autoantibodies reacting with membrane-associated ERα (anti-ERα Abs) in sera of breast canc...
Technical Report
Full-text available
The national guidelines for Animal Assisted Interventions (AAIs) of the Italian Ministry of Health define the operating standards for the correct and uniform application of AAIs in our country. The effectiveness of these innovative interventions depends strongly on the quality of the relationship that the patient establishes with the animal, and, t...
Conference Paper
Prolonging lifespan by natural or artificial compounds is an ambitious goal of numerous ageing researchers. However, most elderly do not care that much about how long they will live, but how long they will remain in good health. At least since first studies in model organisms showed, that lifespan and healthspan do not necessarily correlate, health...
Conference Paper
Introduction Human lifespan has been rising in developed countries however this phenomenon has not been paralleled by an increase in disease-free life expectancy (healthspan). In this context, although great efforts are constantly put through to develop novel target-specific drugs, aimed at alleviating age-related frailty, the occurrence of multipl...
Preprint
Full-text available
Informal caregivers are the unpaid persons who take care of a not self-sufficient family member, due to old age or chronic illness or disability. As in all the European countries, the demand for informal cares is further increased as a result of the ageing societies and the social and political fallout of informal caregiving is a very current and i...
Article
Full-text available
Despite increasing research efforts, there is a lack of consensus on defining aging or health. To understand the underlying processes, and to foster the development of targeted interventions towards increasing one's health, there is an urgent need to find a broadly acceptable and useful definition of health, based on a list of (molecular) features;...
Article
Full-text available
Background and objectives: Depressive symptoms are highly prevalent in older adults and may contribute to functional impairment at old age. Animal-assisted interventions (AAIs), including interventions involving dog visiting, are increasingly recognized as an innovative approach to ameliorate social, behavioral, psychological, and physical outcome...
Poster
Full-text available
Schools and other educational settings represent an important environment for children's social and emotional development; in these contexts, it is indeed of particular importance to promote a calming atmosphere and to stimulate the development of skills such as managing emotions and relationships with peers and adults, being focused and following...
Preprint
Full-text available
Despite increasing research efforts, there is a lack of consensus on defining aging or health. To understand the underlying processes, and to foster the development of targeted interventions towards increasing one's health, there is an urgent need: (1) to find a broadly acceptable and useful definition of health, based on a list of features (which...