Meet Dr. Matteo Gastaldi

September 1, 2022

Dr. Matteo Gastaldi (C. Mondino National Institute of Neurology Foundation, IRCCS, in Pavia, Italy) was awarded a 2022 AEA Community Seed Grant to investigate the Cognitive teleRehabilitation in patients with Encephalitis of AutoIMmune etiology: CoRE-AIM study. Learn more about his research and how it will impact those affected with autoimmune encephalitis. The start date for the award is September 1, 2022.

You have been awarded the AEA seed Grant, can you tell us more about the study you plan to do?

With the funding received from the AEA seed grant, we aim to evaluate the beneficial effects of remote cognitive rehabilitation in subjects with autoimmune encephalitis (AE). AE subjects often suffer from long lasting neuropsychiatric sequelae, that represent a major limitation to their quality of life. Importantly, compared to other neurological processes such as Dementias, subjects with AE have the potential to improve even years after the acute encephalitic attack occurred. Cognitive rehabilitation, an intervention based on the completion of different tasks aimed at improving specific functions such as memory, seems particularly suitable in AE. However, its use has never been validated so far, and its administration is often challenged by lack of centers preforming such treatment and the high frequency of rehabilitation sessions. This can be a relevant burden for AE subjects and caregiver. For this reason, in our institution we recently developed HomeCore, a program for cognitive rehabilitation that can be used from home by any patient through a simple touch screen laptop. In our pilot project we will enroll 15 subjects with a previous diagnosis of AE at any stage of the disease (even years after onset) still suffering from mild-moderate cognitive impairment. We will administer them a cycle of remote cognitive rehabilitation. After a preliminary cognitive evaluation, subjects will receive a touch screen laptop containing the program HomeCore and will complete a cycle of cognitive rehabilitation of 3 sessions per week for 3 months. Thanks to HomeCore, they will be able to perform this cycle directly from home, with no need to access the hospital. At the end of the cycle, patients will be assessed again at our institution to evaluate whether the cognitive status is improved. Importantly, questionnaires about the overall satisfaction of the intervention and usability of the program will be administered, to understand how patients tolerated the rehabilitation cycle.

How will your study help patients and families affected by AE?

Hopefully, our study will be extremely relevant for subjects with AE, as it will provide preliminary data on the efficacy and tolerability of cognitive rehabilitation. This will give us a new tool to improve their cognitive performances, and consequently their quality of life. In addition, this will be done using a remote tool that will be accessible for all subjects, even those living far away from specialized centers or unable to access the hospital too often. We hope that this will be the first step for larger validation clinical trials, that will finally place cognitive rehabilitation among the standard care for people affected by AE.

Tell us more about yourself and your affiliation?

I am Matteo Gastaldi, I am a 38 years old medical doctor specialized in neurology, and in particular in the care and laboratory diagnosis of neuroimmune conditions. I trained in Neurology in Varese and in Pavia in Italy, and spent half of my PhD in Oxford under the supervision of Professor Angela Vincent. Afterwards I completed my PhD in neurosciences at the University of Pavia, after a brief fellowship of 3 months spent in Barcelona under the supervision of Francesc Graus and Josep Dalmau. Since then, I have been working as a neurology consultant and head of the neuroimmunology outpatient clinic in Istituto Mondino in Pavia, a research hospital fully dedicated to Neurosciences. In addition, I kept working as a researcher in the Neuroimmunology lab under the supervision of Diego Franciotta. Since 2021 I am the head of the Neuroimmunology lab and of the Neuroimmunology research Unit in IRCCS Mondino. Since 2021 I am part of the Board of the Italian Association of Neuroimmunology and I coordinate the NINA-group, a network of clinicians interested in research and care of autoimmune neurology, and in particular of Autoimmune Encephalitis.

Thank you to the entire AE Alliance community for the commitment to changing the course of AE. Thank you to the researchers applying for the AEA Community Seed Grant program and to the AE Alliance community, friends and family members for donating to the AEA Research Network. It is your donations that allow us to fund research focused on improving the lives of people living with AE.

Together, we are changing the course of AE.