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Physiopathology of basal ganglia neuronal subcircuits

Our research group investigates the mechanisms underlying cellular, synaptic and circuit function in the basal ganglia that control motor actions.

Motor behavior stands at the core of every mammalian organism’s survival and evolvement within its environment. It mediates a broad spectrum of important tasks from simple motion to highly complex abilities such as speech in humans. Any disability affecting motor behavior has the potential to severely compromise life of an organism.

Inverstigation of neuronal sub-circuits
Understanding how different motor tasks are distributed and modulated through specific neuronal circuits is crucial for the prevention and correction of pathological conditions. Our research aims at the identification and dissection of specific sub-circuits responsible for both simple and complex tasks.

Focus on nucleus of the basal ganglia
We mainly focus our research on the output nucleus of the basal ganglia, the substantia nigra pars reticulata. This brain region controls our motor actions among other functions. We use transgenic mice and apply an array of methods including, confocal imaging, in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology and behavior. These techniques are complemented by mapping, pharmacological and optogenetic tools.

Identification of altered circuits
Our aim is to understand how specific subcircuits of the basal ganglia drive precise aspects of simple and more complex motor tasks in physiological conditions. In neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, these circuits are altered. Identifying the cellular, synaptic and circuit modifications will provide key knowledge on the pathological motor symptoms and therefore allow us to propose specific therapeutic strategies.