About the Laboratory
The ability to learn, i.e. to alter behaviour according to previous experience, is certainly one of the most fascinating property of the nervous system. Such a capacity depends on the inherent flexibility, or plasticity, of neuronal networks and synapse activity. The cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying this fundamental and conserved process are far from being elucidated, nor how the proper balance between stabilised networks and adaptability is equilibrated to ensure brain stability. Molecular and cellular interactions play a crucial instructive role in neuronal plasticity. Specific neurotransmitters or neuromodulators, released by local interneurons, can regulate efficiently (but how?) remodelling of synapses, neurites or functional circuits. Finally, devastating neuropathologies can affect cognitive ability, as in the cases of inherited mental retardation or Alzheimer’s disease , or alter specific neuromodulator systems, as in Parkinson’s disease .
The ESPCI ParisTech Brain Plasticity Unit, CNRS Unit 8249, headed by Thomas Preat since January 1st, 2012, gathers neurobiologists and physicists interested by brain functioning and neuroplasticity. This laboratory includes about 45 people and is composed of five independent research teams: Zsolt Lenkei (Neuronal Structure and Dynamics), Thomas Préat (Genes and dynamics of memory systems), Serge Birman (Genes, Circuits, Rhythms and Neuropathology), François Vialatte (Brain-computer Interfaces) and Karim Benchenane (Memory, Oscillations and Brain states).
Three related topics, i.e. neuroplasticity, neuromodulation and applied studies of various neuropathologies, are addressed in this Laboratory by an integrated multidisciplinary approach combining genetics, molecular and cellular biology, advanced imaging methods, electrophysiology and behaviour tests. Complementary neurobiological models are being studied, from the single neuron to fly and mammalian integrated circuits. The insertion of the Laboratory in the ESPCI ParisTech campus allows fruitful exchanges between neurobiologists and other scientists, all the more since experienced physics scientists or students, who are acquainted with both scientific fields, are present in our laboratory.