How do motor neurons integrate survival and cell death signals from neighboring glial cells? How are properties of spinal networks affected by recent experience to produce adaptive behaviors? How does the brain encode the spatio-temporal characteristics of a movement? How does contextual information influence sensory and cognitive processing to perform goal-directed movements? These are some of the questions tackled by the INT teams. Our integrative approach combines studies at multiple scales with the common goal of understanding the dynamics of motor control in normal and pathological conditions during reaching and grasping, locomotion and respiration.
Our strong technical expertise in complementary in vivo methods allows us to investigate at various levels the contribution of motoneurons, spinal and cortical networks in neuromuscular control using techniques of molecular and cellular biology combined with genetic tools, intra- and extra-cellular recordings, high density multi-electrode electrophysiology, brain imaging techniques and psychophysics.
Our work is largely driven by the imperious need for biologically plausible models of pathological states. Through collaborations between INT researchers and clinicians who study, for instance, the plasticity of the spinal cord after injury, we open new perspectives to understand and cure a major disability such as spasticity. Elucidating the mechanisms of selective motor neuron vulnerability in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at cellular and network levels will permit to devise novel neuroprotective strategies for this dreadful disease. Breaking neural codes of sensory representation and motor planning will allow to build and test better neuroprosthetic devices for cerebral damage.
One of the main line of research developed within the INT is dedicated to a better understanding of neurobiological basis of emotional and motivational processes. We use a translational approach starting from the rat to the human subject, via the monkey. Our studies target various scales such as small networks (unitary electrophysiological recordings in the cortex or the basal ganglia in behaving animals) or large networks (MRI, TMS).
In strong connection with clinicians, our functional studies assess emotion and motivation in their normal and pathological states. Dysfunction of these processes leads to study impulse control disorders (ICD) (including ADHD, addiction, ICD in Parkinson’s Disease for example), post-traumatic stress disorders and in neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorders characterized by impairments in affective and cognitive abilities such as autism spectrum disorders, Williams syndrome, bipolar disorders and schizophrenia with the aim to develop new therapeutic perspectives.