Benedetta Vai RicercatorePsicologia

Research Activity

Curriculum Vitae


Research Activity

The burden of mental disorders is constantly growing despite the availability of new therapeutics. A tremendous need exists to identify reliable biomarkers and tools that can prompt more rapid and effective clinical management and treatment of these disorders.

Our research activities lie at the interface between clinical neuroscience and psychiatry, exploiting specific knowledge of artificial intelligence, machine learning, psychobiology, neuroimmunology, genetics and neuroimaging. These disciplines are integrated with the aim of understanding etiopathogenesis and of improving prevention and clinical prognosis for mental disorders, including those associated with COVID-19.

Curriculum Vitae


2017 –2021 Specialization in Psychotherapy – Institute of Self and Relational Psychoanalysis, Milan, Italy

2014 – 2016 Ph.D. in Developmental Psychopathology and Social Change, Libera Università Maria S.S. Assunta, Rome, Italy

2010-2012 - Master’s degree in Psychology, University Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan, Italy                                             

2008-2010 - Bachelor’s degree in Psychological sciences, University Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan, Italy       

Professional experience

From 2017 - Post-doctoral researcher at Unit of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology, Prof. Francesco Benedetti, Division of Neuroscience, IRCCS San Raffaele Scientific Institute.

October 2019 - Visiting researcher at Risk & Resilience Group, Prof. Van Harmelen, Department of Psychiatry, Cambridge University.

From 2018 - Contract professor at Faculty of Psychology, University Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan, Italy

2014-2016 - Ph.D. student at Unit of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology, Prof. Francesco Benedetti, Division of Neuroscience, IRCCS San Raffaele Scientific Institute


- GR2019, Ricerca finalizzata Giovani Ricercatori Italian Ministry of health  

Improving health care in major depressive disorder: a new prognostic tool based on gene-   environment and neuroimaging signatures.

Role: Principal Investigator.

- GR2018, Ricerca finalizzata Giovani Ricercatori Italian Ministry of health  

Classifying unipolar versus bipolar depression: an innovative diagnostic support system based on clinical features and genetic, inflammatory and neuroimaging biomarkers.

Role: Co-Principal Investigator.

- Fondazione Centro San Raffaele, 2019-2020

Translating genetics, genomics, neuroimaging and inflammatory biomarkers into new diagnostic tools: classifying unipolar versus bipolar depression by using machine learning.

- Fondazione Umberto Veronesi Post-doctoral Fellowship, 2018                       

Artificial Intelligence and Neuroscience to treat depression - Reliable biomarkers for distinguishing between unipolar and bipolar depression: classifying patients using support vector   machine learning techniques with a multimodal neuroimaging approach.


19 H-index – Scopus (27/6/2022)

  1. Vai B, Mazza MG. Antipsychotics and COVID-19 Outcomes-The Potential Role of the Clinical Setting? JAMA Netw Open. 2022 May 2;5(5):e2210749. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.10749. PMID: 35522287.
  2. Mazza MG, Vai B, De Picker L, Benedetti F, Zanardi R. Comment on: "Fluvoxamine for the Early Treatment of SARS-CoV-2 Infection: A Review of Current Evidence". Drugs. 2022 Feb;82(3):349-351. doi: 10.1007/s40265-022-01682-7. Epub 2022 Feb 12. PMID: 35150437; PMCID: PMC8853053.
  1. Colombo F, Calesella F, Mazza MG, Melloni EMT, Morelli MJ, Scotti GM, Benedetti F, Bollettini I, Vai B. Machine learning approaches for prediction of bipolar disorder based on biological, clinical and neuropsychological markers: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2022 Feb 2;135:104552. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2022.104552. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35120970.
  2. Comai S, Melloni E, Lorenzi C, Bollettini I, Vai B, Zanardi R, Colombo C, Valtorta F, Benedetti F, Poletti S. Selective association of cytokine levels and kynurenine/tryptophan ratio with alterations in white matter microstructure in bipolar but not in unipolar depression. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2022 Feb;55:96-109. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2021.11.003. Epub 2021 Nov 27. PMID: 34847455.
  3. De Picker L, Mazza MG, Vai B. Antipsychotics and COVID-19: the debate goes on - Authors' reply. Lancet Psychiatry. 2021 Dec;8(12):1030-1031. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(21)00428-4. PMID: 34801117; PMCID: PMC8601685.
  4. Benedetti F, Palladini M, Paolini M, Melloni E, Vai B, De Lorenzo R, Furlan R, Rovere-Querini P, Falini A, Mazza MG. Brain correlates of depression, post-traumatic distress, and inflammatory biomarkers in COVID-19 survivors: A multimodal magnetic resonance imaging study. Brain Behav Immun Health. 2021 Dec;18:100387. doi: 10.1016/j.bbih.2021.100387. Epub 2021 Nov 2. PMID: 34746876; PMCID: PMC8562046
  5. Mazza MG, Palladini M, De Lorenzo R, Bravi B, Poletti S, Furlan R, Ciceri F; COVID-19 BioB Outpatient Clinic Study group, Rovere-Querini P, Benedetti F. One-year mental health outcomes in a cohort of COVID-19 survivors. J Psychiatr Res. 2021 Nov 22;145:118-124. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.11.031. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34894521; PMCID: PMC8607816.
  6. Vai B, Mazza M, Delli Colli C, Foiselle M, Allen B, Benedetti F, Borsini A, Casanova D, Tamaouza R, Leboyer M, Benros ME, Branchi I, Fusar-Poli P, De Picker L. Mental disorders and risk of COVID-19 related mortality, hospitalization and intensive care unit admission: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Psychiatrythis link is disabled, 2021, 8(9), pp. 797–812
  7. Cavicchioli M, Calesella F, Cazzetta S, Mariagrazia M, Ogliari A, Maffei C, Vai B. Investigating predictive factors of dialectical behavior therapy skills training efficacy for alcohol and concurrent substance use disorders: A machine learning study. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2021 Jul 1;224:108723. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108723. Epub 2021 Apr 24. PMID: 33965687.
  8. Poletti S, Mazza MG, Calesella F, Vai B, Lorenzi C, Manfredi E, Colombo C, Zanardi R, Benedetti F. Circulating inflammatory markers impact cognitive functions in bipolar depression. J Psychiatr Res. 2021 Jun 2;140:110-116. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.05.071. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34107379
  9. De Picker LJ, Dias MC, Benros ME, Vai B, Branchi I, Benedetti F, Borsini A, Leza JC, Kärkkäinen H, Männikkö M, Pariante CM, Güngör ES, Szczegielniak A, Tamouza R, van der Markt A, Fusar-Poli P, Beezhold J, Leboyer M. Severe mental illness and European COVID-19 vaccination strategies. Lancet Psychiatry. 2021 Feb 17;8(5):356–9. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(21)00046-8.
  10. De Picker LJ, Yolken R, Benedetti F, Borsini A, Branchi I, Fusar-Poli P, Carlos Leza J, Pariante C, Pollak T, Tamouza R, Vai B, Vernon AC, Benros ME, Leboyer M; ECNP Immuno-NeuroPsychiatry TWG. Viewpoint | European COVID-19 exit strategy for people with severe mental disorders: Too little, but not yet too late. Brain Behav Immun. 2021 May;94:15-17. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2021.01.008. Epub 2021 Jan 23. 
  11. Poletti S, Mazza MG, Vai B, Lorenzi C, Colombo C, Benedetti F. Proinflammatory Cytokines Predict Brain Metabolite Concentrations in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex of Patients With Bipolar Disorder. Front Psychiatry. 2020 Dec 8;11:590095. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.590095. 
  12. Benedetti F, Poletti S, Vai B, Mazza MG, Lorenzi C, Brioschi S, Aggio V, Branchi I, Colombo C, Furlan R, Zanardi R. Higher baseline interleukin-1β and TNF-α hamper antidepressant response in major depressive disorder. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2021 Jan;42:35-44. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2020.11.009. Epub 2020 Nov 13. 
  13. Vai B, Cazzetta S, Ghiglino D, Parenti L, Saibene G, Toti M, Verga C, Wykowska A, Benedetti F. Risk Perception and Media in Shaping Protective Behaviors: Insights From the Early Phase of COVID-19 Italian Outbreak. Front Psychol. 2020 Nov 5;11:563426. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.563426. 
  14. Poletti S, Vai B, Mazza MG, Zanardi R, Lorenzi C, Calesella F, Cazzetta S, Branchi I, Colombo C, Furlan R, Benedetti F. A peripheral inflammatory signature discriminates bipolar from unipolar depression: A machine learning approach. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2020 Oct 9;105:110136. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2020.110136.
  15. Vai B, Cazzetta S, Scalisi R, Donati A, Bechi M, Poletti S, Sforzini L, Visintini R, Maffei C, Benedetti F. Neuropsychological deficits correlate with symptoms severity and cortical thickness in Borderline Personality Disorder. J Affect Disord. 2020 Sep 15;278:181-188. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.09.060. 
  16. Mazza MG, De Lorenzo R, Conte C, Poletti S, Vai B, Bollettini I, Melloni EMT, Furlan R, Ciceri F, Rovere-Querini P; COVID-19 BioB Outpatient Clinic Study group, Benedetti F. Anxiety and depression in COVID-19 survivors: Role of inflammatory and clinical predictors. Brain Behav Immun. 2020 Oct;89:594-600. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2020.07.037. Epub 2020 Jul 30.
  17. Scalabrini A, Vai B, Poletti S, et al. All roads lead to the default-mode network-global source of DMN abnormalities in major depressive disorder [published online ahead of print, 2020 Aug 2]. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2020;10.1038/s41386-020-0785-x. doi:10.1038/s41386-020-0785-x
  18. Caletti E, Pagliari C, Vai B, Delvecchio G, Brambilla P. Which are the best questionnaires to longitudinally evaluate mindfulness skills in personality disorders? J Affect Disord. 2020 Aug 14;277:169-174. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.08.009. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32829192.
  19. Vai B, Parenti L, Bollettini I, et al. Predicting differential diagnosis between bipolar and unipolar depression with multiple kernel learning on multimodal structural neuroimaging. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2020; 34:28-38. doi:10.1016/j.euroneuro.2020.03.008. 
  20. Melloni E, Poletti S, Dalla Spezia S., Bollettini I., Vai B, Barbini B, Zanardi R, Colmbo C, Benedetti F. Changes of white matter microstructure after successful treatment of bipolar depression. Journal of affective disorders. 2020 1 Sep; 15; 274: 1049-1056.
  21. Vai B, Serretti A, Poletti S, Mascia M, Lorenzi C, Colombo C, Benedetti F. Cortico-limbic functional connectivity mediates the effect of early life stress on suicidality in bipolar depressed 5-HTTLPR*s carriers. Journal of affective disorders. 2020 15 Feb; 15; 263: 420-427.
  22. Poletti S, Melloni E, Mazza E, Vai B, Benedetti F. Gender-specific differences in white matter microstructure in healthy adults exposed to mild stress. Stress. 2020;23(1):116–124. doi:10.1080/10253890.2019.1657823
  23. Furlan R, Melloni E, Finardi A, Vai B. et al. Natural killer cells protect white matter integrity in bipolar disorder. Brain Behav Immun. 2019;81:410–421. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2019.06.037
  24. Vai B, Bertocchi C, Benedetti F. Cortico-limbic connectivity as a possible biomarker for bipolar disorder: where are we now? Expert Rev Neurother. 2019 Feb;19(2):159-172. doi: 10.1080/14737175.2019.1562338. Epub 2019 Jan 1.
  25. Melloni EMT, Poletti S, Vai B, Bollettini I, Colombo C, Benedetti F. Effects of illness duration on cognitive performances in bipolar depression are mediated by white matter microstructure. J Affect Disord. 2019 Feb 8;249:175-182.
  26. Poletti S, Leone G, Hoogenboezem TA, Ghiglino D, Vai B, de Wit H, Wijkhuijs AJM, Locatelli C, Colombo C, Drexhage HA, Benedetti F. Markers of neuroinflammation influence measures of cortical thickness in bipolar depression.Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging. 2019 Mar 30;285:64-66.
  27. Poletti S, Riberto M, Vai B, Ghiglino D, Lorenzi C, Vitali A, Brioschi S, Locatelli C, Serretti A, Colombo C, Benedetti F. A Glutamate Transporter EAAT1 Gene Variant Influences Amygdala Functional Connectivity in Bipolar Disorder. J Mol Neurosci. 2018 Aug;65(4):536-545. doi: 10.1007/s12031-018-1138-7. Epub 2018 Aug 2
  28. Vai B, Sforzini L, Visintini R, Riberto M, Bulgarelli C, Ghiglino D, Melloni E, Bollettini I, Poletti S, Maffei C, Benedetti F. Corticolimbic connectivity mediates the relationship between Adverse childhood experiences and symptom severity in Borderline Personality Disorder. 2017;76(2):105-115. doi: 10.1159/000487961. Epub 2018 Jun 1. Neuropsychobiology.
  29. Vai B, Riberto M, Ghiglino D, Poletti S, Bollettini I, Lorenzi C, Colombo C, Benedetti F. A 5-HT(1A)receptor promoter polymorphism influences fronto-limbic functional connectivity and depression severity in bipolar disorder. Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging. 2017 Dec 30; 270:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2017.09.012. Epub 2017 Sep 20. PubMed PMID: 28985530.
  30. Vai B, Riberto M, Poletti S, Bollettini I, Lorenzi C, Colombo C, Benedetti F. Catechol-O-methyltransferase Val(108/158)Met polymorphism affects fronto-limbic connectivity during emotional processing in bipolar disorder. Eur Psychiatry. 2017 Mar; 41:53-59. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2016.10.002. Epub 2017 Feb 3. PubMed PMID: 28049082.
  31. Vai B, Riberto M, Ghiglino D, Bollettini I, Falini A, Benedetti F, Poletti S. Mild adverse childhood experiences increase neural efficacy during affective theory of mind. Stress. 2017 Nov 5:1-6. doi: 0.1080/10253890.2017.1398231. PubMed PMID: 29105572.
  32. Benedetti F, Poletti S, Locatelli C, Mazza E, Lorenzi C, Vitali A, Riberto M, Brioschi S, Vai B, Bollettini I, Melloni E, Aggio V, Falini A, De Bartolomeis A, Colombo C. A Homer 1 gene variant influences brain structure and function,lithium effects on white matter, and antidepressant response in bipolar disorder: A multimodal genetic imaging study. Prog europsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2017 Oct 27; 81:88-95. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2017.10.011. PubMed PMID: 29079138.
  33. Bollettini I, Mazza MG, Muzzarelli L, Dallaspezia S, Poletti S, Vai B, Smeraldi E, Benedetti F. White matter alterations associate with onset symptom dimension in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2017 Aug 16. doi: 10.1111/pcn.12563. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 28815874.
  34. Bollettini I, Spangaro M, Poletti S, Lorenzi C, Pirovano A, Vai B, Smeraldi E, Cavallaro R, Benedetti F. Sexually divergent effect of COMT Val/met genotype on subcortical volumes in schizophrenia. Brain Imaging Behav. 2017 Jun 30. doi: 10.1007/s11682-017-9748-1. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 28667376.
  35. Bollettini I, Melloni EM, Aggio V, Poletti S, Lorenzi C, Pirovano A, Vai B, Dallaspezia S, Colombo C, Benedetti F. Clock genes associate with white matter integrity in depressed bipolar patients. Chronobiol Int. 2017; 34(2):212-224. doi: 10.1080/07420528.2016.1260026. Epub 2016 Dec 20. PubMed PMID: 27996307.
  36. Vai B, Bulgarelli C, Godlewska BR, Cowen PJ, Benedetti F, Harmer CJ. Fronto-limbic effective connectivity as possible predictor of antidepressant response to SSRI administration. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2016 Dec; 26(12):2000-2010. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2016.09.640. Epub 2016 Oct 15. PubMed PMID: 27756525.
  37. Benedetti F, Poletti S, Hoogenboezem TA, Locatelli C, Ambrée O, de Wit H, Wijkhuijs AJ, Mazza E, Bulgarelli C, Vai B, Colombo C, Smeraldi E, Arolt V, Drexhage HA. Stem Cell Factor (SCF) is a putative biomarker of antidepressant response. J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2016 Jun; 11(2):248-58. doi: 10.1007/s11481-016-9672-y. Epub 2016 Apr 23. PubMed PMID: 27108110.
  38. Poletti S, Vai B, Smeraldi E, Cavallaro R, Colombo C, Benedetti F. Adverse childhood experiences influence the detrimental effect of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia on cortico-limbic grey matter volumes. J Affect Disord. 2016 Jan 1; 189:290-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.09.049. Epub 2015 Oct 3. PubMed PMID: 26454335.
  39. Vai B, Poletti S, Radaelli D, Dallaspezia S, Bulgarelli C, Locatelli C, Bollettini I, Falini A, Colombo C, Smeraldi E, Benedetti F. Successful antidepressant chronotherapeutics enhance fronto-limbic neural responses and connectivity in bipolar depression. Psychiatry Res. 2015 Aug 30; 233(2):243-53. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2015.07.015. Epub 2015 Jul 8. PubMed PMID: 26195295.
  40. Poletti S, Radaelli D, Cucchi M, Ricci L, Vai B, Smeraldi E, Benedetti F. Neural correlates of anxiety sensitivity in panic disorder: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Psychiatry Res. 2015 Aug 30; 233(2):95-101. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2015.05.013. Epub 2015 May 27. PubMed PMID: 26071623.
  41. Vai B, Sferrazza Papa G, Poletti S, Radaelli D, Donnici E, Bollettini I, Falini A, Cavallaro R, Smeraldi E, Benedetti F. Abnormal cortico-limbic connectivity during emotional processing correlates with symptom severity in schizophrenia. Eur Psychiatry. 2015 Jul; 30(5):590-7. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2015.01.002. Epub 2015 Feb 11. PubMed PMID: 25682180.
  42. Benedetti F, Poletti S, Radaelli D, Locatelli C, Pirovano A, Lorenzi C, Vai B, Bollettini I, Falini A, Smeraldi E, Colombo C. Lithium and GSK-3β promoter gene variants influence cortical gray matter volumes in bipolar disorder. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 Apr; 232(7):1325-36. doi:10.1007/s00213-014-3770-4. Epub 2014 Oct 28. PubMed PMID: 25345732.
  43. Poletti S, Bollettini I, Mazza E, Locatelli C, Radaelli D, Vai B, Smeraldi E, Colombo C, Benedetti F. Cognitive performances associate with measures of white matter integrity in bipolar disorder. J Affect Disord. 2015 Mar 15; 174:342-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2014.12.030. Epub 2014 Dec 18. PubMed PMID: 25553397.
  44. Radaelli D, Sferrazza Papa G, Vai B, Poletti S, Smeraldi E, Colombo C, Benedetti F. Fronto-limbic disconnection in bipolar disorder. Eur Psychiatry. 2015 Jan; 30(1):82-8. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2014.04.001. Epub 2014 May 19. PubMed PMID: 24853295.
  45. Bollettini I, Poletti S, Locatelli C, Vai B, Smeraldi E, Colombo C, Benedetti F. Disruption of white matter integrity marks poor antidepressant response in bipolar disorder. J Affect Disord. 2015 Mar 15; 174:233-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2014.11.010. Epub 2014 Nov 15. PubMed PMID: 25527993.
  46. Vai B, Bollettini I, Benedetti F. Corticolimbic connectivity as a possible biomarker for bipolar disorder. Expert Rev Neurother. 2014 Jun; 14(6):631-50. doi: 10.1586/14737175.2014.915744. Review. PubMed PMID: 24852228.
  47. Ratti MM, Delli Zotti GB, Sangiovanni E, Vai B, Limido A, Bertoli S, Sarno L, Spotti D. [Quality of life, anxiety and distress in patients suffering from chronic kidney disease: pre-dialysis and start of dialytic treatment]. G Ital Nefrol. 2017 Jan-Feb; 34(1). pii: gin/34.1.13. Italian. PubMed PMID: 28177103.
  48. Maria Monica Ratti, Giulia Bruna Delli Zotti, Benedetta Vai, Sara Sofisti, Ciro D’Auria, Marco Rizzi, Maria Simonetta Spada, Silvia Nozza, Adriano Lazzarin, Lucio Sarno. Burnout mediates the relationship between coping strategies and self-perceived health in healthcare providers working with HIV/AIDS patients. Psicologia della Salutethis link is disabled, 2021, (2), pp. 35–53


Il titolare del presente curriculum vitae, pubblicato online sul portale, è garante in via esclusiva della correttezza e della veridicità dei dati e delle informazioni in esso riportate e del loro eventuale e puntuale aggiornamento. Egli è dunque il diretto ed unico responsabile dei contenuti indicati nei propri curricula.