Massimo Matelli, Professor of Physiology at the University of Parma, Italy, died on August 22, 2003, after a short illness.
Born in Cremona, Italy, in 1951, Matelli graduated from the University of Parma in 1977, receiving his degree in medicine, with honors. He specialized in neurology in 1981 at Parma, and in neurosurgery in 1986 at Ferrara. In 1987, he joined the University of Parma as an associate professor of physiology. In 1994, he became a full professor of physiology. In 1985/1986 he spent a year as a research associate in the Department of Psychology at Duke University (Durham, NC), working with I.T. Diamond. In 2002, he was appointed dean of the newly founded School of Physiotherapy at the University of Parma.
Matelli's main research focus was the anatomical and functional organization of the motor and premotor cortex in primates. In 1985, he proposed, in collaboration with G. Rizzolatti and G. Luppino, a parcellation of the agranular frontal cortex of the monkey, based on histochemical techniques. This parcellation, which is now widely accepted, was subsequently confirmed with cytoarchitectonic and neurochemical methods by Matelli. Also particularly important are his studies on the anatomical and functional organization of the mesial premotor cortex. Matelli first demonstrated that the so-called "Supplementary Motor Area" is formed by two distinct anatomical and functional areas: F3 or "SMA proper" and F6 or "pre-SMA", with clearly distinct functional properties; Matellis used a combination of cytoarchitectonics with intracortical microstimulation in this work.
The organization of the agranular frontal cortex was also addressed by Professor Matelli in a series of important tract tracing studies, which demonstrated that each of the several agranular frontal areas has a specific pattern of cortical and thalamic connections. Other studies by Matelli concerned the organization of the motor thalamus and, more recently, of the posterior parietal cortex of the monkey.
Matelli was a creative scientist, highly dedicated to research. His warm personality made him very popular and loved by students and colleagues. Massimo is survived by his wife, Cristina, and his daughter, Chiara.