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Rosa Lab research

Our research | CollaborationsStudent research projects | Publications

About Professor Marcello Rosa

BSc, MSc, PhD (Rio de Janeiro)

  • A.W. Campbell award, for the best research by a member of the Australian Neuroscience Society (ANS) during the first five postdoctoral years (1996).
  • Paxinos-Watson prize, for the most significant refereed paper in the neurosciences by a member of the ANS published in the previous year (1999 and 2002).
  • Monash University Faculty of Medicine Research Award (2004).
  • Fellow of the University of Bologna Institute of Advanced Studies.

Research programs and team leadership

In addition to leading a productive laboratory, Professor Rosa is also the Deputy Head of the Centre of Excellence for Integrative Brain Function (CIBF) and the head of Monash BDI’s Neuroscience Program. The CIBF is an ARC-funded multidisciplinary program across six Australian Universities, one Medical Research Institute and eight international partner organisations, focused on research at the interface between Neuroscience, Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science. He is in charge of major international alliances, as well as coordination of the "Neural Circuits" research theme.

Professor Rosa was the Head of the preclinical division of the Monash Vision Group (BionicEye) (2010-2014), created following a successful bid to the ARC’s Special Research Initiative on Bionic Vision and Technology. This program developed a brain stimulation device capable of restoring some visual sensation to people rendered blind by loss of the eyes or optic radiations. Professor Rosa was in charge of team entrusted with testing of successive versions of the device, in both monkeys and rodents, gathering data on safety and effectiveness. The device was approved for a clinical trial in March 2018. This program is a major example of the value of the research on non-human primates conducted in Professor Rosa’s laboratory focussed on translational outcomes, and has resulted in close alliances with the medical device industry.

Professor Rosa also holds an adjunct appointment at the RIKEN Centre for Brain Science (Japan; formerly Brain Science Institute) since 2016.

Research policy and professional leadership

Professor Rosa is a current member of the editorial boards of the three main journals in the field of Neuroanatomy: Brain Structure and Function (Section Editor), Journal of Comparative Neurology, and Frontiers in Neuroanatomy. He is also on the editorial board of Visual Neuroscience.

Other leadership roles include:

  • Served two terms (2008-2010, and 2015-2018) as a member of the College of Experts, the ARC's peak peer review body.
  • Chair of the ARC Special Advisory Committee for Future Fellowships (2011, 2012).
  • Member of NHMRC Project Grants Review Panels (including 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013), Assigners Academy (2015), and Investigator Grants Review Panel (2019).
  • Member of the NHMRC’s Working Committee for revision of the Policy on the Care and Use of Non-human Primates (2012-2016). This led to revised guidelines for the use of primates in research.
  • Research quality assessor for the Italian National Agency for Evaluation of the Universities and Research (ANVUR). This is the Italian equivalent of the Australian ERA.
  • Member of the Council for Training, Science and Infrastructure of the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF, Stockholm; since 2016).
  • Member of the Australasian Neuroscience Society Executive, serving as Victorian state representative (2017) and Chair of the Animals in Research advocacy committee 2017-present).
  • Invited speaker at international symposia, including (among others) the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Symposium “Cortical Maps” (2001), the UNESCO Chair on Developmental Biology (Rio de Janeiro, 2001) the Joint China/ USA Neuroscience Symposium (Shanghai, 2005), and two Symposia of the 2007 International Brain Research Organization Congress.

Institutional leadership

  • Head of the Neuroscience Program in the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (2016-present).
  • Deputy Head of the Department of Physiology (2010-present).
  • University coordinator for the ERA submission covering field of research “Neurosciences” (1109), through all four cycles of the assessment to date. Under my leadership Monash received the maximum ranking (5, well above world standard) in all four ERA assessments for which the results have been announced (one of only two Universities to have achieved this).
  • Director of the Monash University Centre of Brain and Behaviour, a virtual institute which evolved into the Monash Institute for Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience/ Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, and the BDI Neuroscience Program. I have served in this position for 4 years, having now assumed the Directorship of the BDI Neuroscience Program (with focus on preclinical research).
  • In addition to these major institutional leadership roles, I have been an active member of many Faculty and University committees, including (among others) the Level C and D promotions committees, and the Academic Board.

Our research

Current projects

1. Neurophysiology
In this project we investigate the mechanistic bases of perception, using physiological techniques to probe how neurones in different brain areas are activated by sensory stimuli, and how this activity helps explain what we see, hear or feel.

2. Brain Mapping
This project’s aim is to define how the cortex is subdivided into areas, the topographic maps that define the internal organisation of these areas, and how these maps have changed in mammalian evolution.

3. Neuroinformatics
Here we collaborate with physicists and mathematicians to extract meaning from large-scale datasets on the anatomy and physiology of brain circuits. The major effort is directed towards the Marmoset Brain Connectivity Atlas.

4. Human Brain studies
In this project we apply the knowledge obtained in animal models to understand the anatomy, physiology and development of the human brain, including work on brain-computer interfaces to restore some visual sensation to the profoundly blind.

5. Development and Plasticity
We try to understand how the brain circuits form, and what happens to them when they are affected by disease or lesions. A major part of the current work is devoted to the impact of lesions of the occipital lobe, and how to restore vision in such cases.

6. Neuroanatomical studies
In this project we are attempting to understand the vast circuit formed by interconnected neurones in the mammalian brain. This project is primarily based on neuroanatomical tracing techniques.

7. Cytoarchitectural studies
We investigate the fine structure of the brain, looking at how the different cell types organise in 3 dimensions to create diversity of function. In recent years, this type of work has incorporated a significant component of neuro-informatic approaches.

8. Insect vision
I contribute to research led by the group led by Dr. Adrian Dyer, formerly in Monash University and now at the RMIT, on trying to understand how vision determines pollinator behaviour. Seeing the coloured light: bee brains open way for better cameras , July 2017, Monash BDI News

Visit Professor Rosa's Monash research profile to see a full listing of current projects.

Research activities

For an updated list of my projects and publications (and to make reprint requests),visit my Research Gate profile.

Lateral (top) and medial (bottom) views of the marmoset cerebral cortex, showing the distribution of
neurons (black points) that form synapses with the region indicated by red cones.

Photo shows BDA-labelled pyramidal neurons in layers 3 and 5 of the marmoset superior temporal
polysensory area of the cerebral cortex resulting from a tracer injection into the auditory core region.


Neuroanatomical tract-tracing, in vivo electrophysiology, neuro-informatics, histological analyses.

Non-human primates have provided some of the most fundamental insights on human brain function, but in the late 1990s marmosets were still a niche species in neuroscience. I was one of the first to recognize the potential of preclinical studies in this species to take advantage of advances in technologies for large-scale electrophysiology and cellular-resolution imaging, as a link between studies in rodents and humans. This realization led me to map the organization of the marmoset cerebral cortex, particularly with respect to visual and association areas, and to develop techniques for successfully recording neuronal activity, anatomical tracing, and large-scale neuroinfomatic analyses. These techniques have since become standards in the field, having been adopted by other groups for 2-photon, optical and haemodynamic imaging. I have trained a large proportion of the current Australian scientists working on non-human primates, and 11 international visitors who came to my laboratory to learn techniques.

Disease models

Marmoset monkey (Callithrix jacchus).

Lesions due to stroke or trauma in the occipital lobe cause blindness, which can be complete or restricted to part of the visual field. My work has identified areas of the visual brain that remain active after such lesions. I want to find out if these areas can be used to partially restore vision. This project will study the potential roles of different surviving areas, how brain cells rewire their connections in response to damage, and how rehabilitation programs work at the cellular level.


We collaborate with many scientists and research organisations around the world. Some of our more significant national and international collaborators are listed below. Click on the map to see the details for each of these collaborators (dive into specific publications and outputs by clicking on the dots).

In addition to work conducted in Australia I have formed a wide network of collaborations to support the development of non-human primate models, leading to co-authored papers with researchers in the US (e.g. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NYU, Boston), Japan (RIKEN), the UK (UCL, Oxford), Norway (Oslo), Italy (Bologna) and France (CNRS Toulouse, INSERM Paris) among others. These collaborative studies have been the subject of influential reviews (e.g. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2017) and highly cited papers (e.g. Front Neural Circuits 2014; Cerebral Cortex 2016, 65 cites).


Student research projects

The Rosa Lab offers a variety of Honours, Masters and PhD projects for students interested in joining our group. There are also a number of short term research opportunities available.

Please visit Supervisor Connect to explore the projects currently available in our Lab.