Soutenance de la thèse de Farah Wolfe

12 décembre 2016

10am, 12/12/2016

Salle de these 2, Faculté de Médicine

Role of the hypothalamus in sociality : possible contribution to Autism Spectrum Disorders


  • Dr Leonhard Shilbach Institut de Max Planck de psychiatrie Rapporteur
  • Pr Arthur Kaladjian Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne Rapporteur
  • Pr Pascal Belin Aix-Marseille Université, INT, BaNCo Examinateur
  • Dr Galina Iakimova Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis Examinateur
  • Dr Christine Deruelle Aix-Marseille Université, INT, SCaLP Directrice
  • Dr Thierry Chaminade Aix-Marseille Université, INT, SCaLP Co-Directeur

ABSTRACT Human sociality is a complex phenomenon. Prevailing theories attempting to explain neurobiological mechanisms of human sociality have implicated neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT), which facilitates numerous social functions and behaviors. The hypothalamus, among its many functions, also synthesizes and secretes OXT via its supraoptic nucleus (SON) and the paraventricular nucleus (PVN), making them viable candidates to understand the underpinnings of various social processes. This thesis combines three magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies investigating 1) anatomical difference of the hypothalamus between neurotypics and patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) ; 2) functional MRI of the hypothalamus, specifically in hypothalamic subregions containing SON and PVN in response to faces of individuals with varying social significance ; 3) functional connectivity of these hypothalamic subregions to other brain networks. Results revealed differential activity of hypothalamic subregions in response to various faces and distinctive patterns of connectivity to other brain areas that are involved in social cognition as well as anatomical abnormalities of the hypothalamus in ASD. Altogether, the work in this thesis provides novel methods of measuring small hypothalamic subregions and supporting evidence of hypothalamic involvement in social functions that may shed also some light on social dysfunctions in ASD and other pathologies.

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