Saturday, 16th December 2017

Overview

Our department’s main objective is to understand the molecular basis of neuronal function, both in physiological and pathological situations. To this end, we have gathered a multidisciplinary team that combines state-of-the art technologies of modern neuroscience research with genetically modified animals that mimic human mental diseases. Our department offers a comprehensive approach to these problems, from structure-function analysis of individual molecules, to cellular adaptations for neuronal growth and plasticity, to pathological alterations leading to neuronal degeneration and cognitive disorders. These research activities take full advantage of our center’s excellent technical capabilities, such as the confocal and multiphoton fluorescence imaging service or the top-of-the-line equipment for electrophysiological analysis.

Research in our department is organized around three main themes:

Neuronal differentiation, development and growth: we investigate how the tremendous morphological and functional specialization of neuronal cells is generated, from the differentiation of precursor cells to the maturation of synaptic connections.

Mechanisms of synaptic transmission and plasticity of neuronal function: all our cognitive functions are based on the ability of neurons to encode and process information via synaptic transmission. We study the precise molecular mechanisms that support synaptic function, and their modification in response to brain activity.

Neurodegenerative and age-related disorders: several neurodegenerative diseases are of particular interest to this department, such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and spinocerebellar ataxia. The processes triggering neuronal death and possible therapeutic avenues to alleviate these conditions are the major focus of this research.

Naturally, there are multiple interactions and cross-fertilization between these themes. Thus, understanding the basic cell biology of neuronal precursor cells is helping us to determine their therapeutic potential for neurodegenerative diseases. Additionally, we are learning how several cognitive disorders are due to alterations in basic mechanisms of synaptic communication between neurons. We pay particular attention to the interdisciplinary nature of our research, and foster exchange of ideas and experimental approaches among the different research groups.