. Life Sciences
Living neuronal networks, in particular the human brain, are considered to be among the most complex systems in nature. The quest to understand them has caught the attention of different research groups at the Institute, who are exploring them through a rich repertoire of experimental, computational and theoretical tools.
Two major lines of action shape neuroscience research, centered at either the scale of the brain or at the scale of mesoscopic neuronal circuits. At the scale of the brain, researchers study statistical models for the complex representation of the behavior of brain signal recordings in Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) paradigms. Statistical, computational and mathematical models are generated with the aim of understanding the features of functional and effective connectivity maps between brain regions. These models provide a framework not only for systematic analysis, but also to diagnose and understand brain pathologies such as Mild Cognitive Impairment, Major Depressive Disorder, or simply aging. At the mesoscale, our research focuses on the emergence of collective phenomena in neuronal circuits. Neuronal cultures derived from either rat primary cells or human induced pluripotent stem cells are used as the main experimental platforms, and laboratory data is combined with theoretical modeling and numerical simulations. The investigation of complex phenomena in cultures include the ability of neuronal circuits to exhibit spontaneous activity patterns, synchronization mechanisms, and the capacity of these circuits to manifest an exquisite robustness in combination with broad flexibility. Given the relation between neuronal networks and connectivity, research also covers the modeling of neurological disorders in vitro and in silico, in particular in Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.