Unraveling the brain's mysteries can help us understand more about brain dysfunctions and increases scientific knowledge about the theoretical principles that govern the activity of each neuron. The department's research should open new possibilities for the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, behavioral abnormalities including mood disorders, addiction, brain development disorders such as autism, sight loss and sensory deficits such as deafness.
A vast research field
It is now generally accepted by scientists that the brain is a dynamic organ which interacts with its internal and external environment. It is important to understand how the brain integrates information through these interactions. Starting from this premise, the department's scientists investigate the neurobiological bases of different behaviors and the nature of the brain's interactions with other systems including the immune, the microbial and the endocrine systems.
One area of research is the study of neural stem cells in adults: their presence, their mechanisms of transformation into neurons and their integration into existing neural circuits. The data from these studies reveal that the brain has regenerative properties which enable it to adapt to specific dysfunctions.
In another area of research, the scientists investigate viruses such as the cytomegalovirus (CMV), which causes infections that are usually unnoticeable but can have harmful effects on the brain, especially on the olfactory and auditory systems, leading to intellectual disabilities and hearing deficits.
The department also investigates the mechanisms that govern the interactions between the billions of bacteria in the human body (known as the microbiota, previously referred to as the microflora), the immune system and the activities of the brain: if the immune system is weakened, the microbiota can influence cognitive functions such as learning, memory, addiction and decision-making processes.
Hope for future treatments
The department takes the approach that the central nervous system is an open system that interacts with other systems of the organism. This paves the way for a better understanding of the brain and for new therapeutic applications. That is why the department's scientists take part in research programs and exchange data with colleagues who work in other areas such as developmental biology, structural biology, immunology and microbiology.