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Research fields

CORTEX is divided into 4 scientific fields.

Field 1 : Stem cell biology and cortical development

Field Leader: Henry Kennedy

The CORTEX teams working on development are known for discovering unique features of corticogenesis. Given the role of the cortex (including prefrontal cortex) in cognitive processes these teams investigate the gene regulatory networks of cortical precursors, the regulation of their cell cycle and its contribution to determining the cortical cytoarchitecture. Modeling this data will allow simulation of self-organizing neural networks. The team working on embryonic stem (ES) cells is known for its pioneering work on reprogramming the cell cycle control of ES-cells. Here they adapt these techniques to manipulate simian induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSs), reprogramming them to be naïve and so able to colonizing the embryo and form chimaeras. This will allow: (i) Exploration of the genome integrity and the safety of iPSs produced by different reprogramming paradigms; (ii) Exploration of corticogenesis using chimaeras of genes that control brain development and function; (iii) Generation of models of human monogenic diseases.

Field 2: Large-scale network dynamics underlying perception

Field leader: Jean-Philippe Lachaux

The objective of this field is to understand large-scale cortical networks and the principals of their dynamic coupling in relation to cognition. Using novel technical developments such as simultaneous iEEG/fMRI and iEEG/MEG recording, as well as tract tracing or multi-site-cell electrophysiology, or more classical iEEG, EEG, MEG and fMRI, CORTEX research teams will examine the functional organization of perceptual networks in: (i) Olfaction, in freely moving rats, addressing for instance the role of rhythmic neural activities in coding; (ii) Vision, during for instance active visuomotor behavior including free-viewing of natural scenes and sentence reading; (iii) Audition, by studying how information is extracted in complex auditory scenes via prefrontal-executive/temporal-sensory interactions in healthy subjects and patients; (iv) Pain, by studying the interactions between sensory, limbic and cognitive networks. Research extends beyond single sensory modalities to expand to (v) Cognitive networks in the prefrontal cortex including the insula.
In addition, modulation of those networks, via their natural evolution or disruption in neurological disorders, will be used to address (i) network plasticity during multisensory integration and memory; (ii) dissociation of parieto-frontal networks supporting attention, perception and executive control of response production; (iii) activation and functional connectivity to study auditory processing during sleep and dreams.

Field 3: Behaviour and neuroeconomics

Field leader: Jean-René Duhamel

Field 3 is concerned with higher-order mechanisms involved in the control and regulation of behaviour and their interactions with the neurobiology of emotions and motivation. It addresses various topics in the field of decision making, action control, motivational and affective state processing, using a broad set of tools ranging from animal models and human functional imaging, to economic theory and computational approaches.
Executive control of action and the role of the prefrontal/dopaminergic system are investigated in animal models, focusing on cortico-cortical laminar dynamics as well as large-scale fronto-striatal loops. Pathophysiological aspects, such as deficits in proactive inhibitory control, and the contribution of the default-mode brain network (DMN) and of noradrenergic and cholinergic neuromodulation are studied in order to understand the origin of impulse control disorders and akinetic states in different neuropsychiatric diseases.
The question of how human make choices is central in disciplines as diverse as philosophy, sociology, economics or biology. The neuro-behavioral bases of decision making are investigated in relation to the specificities of perceptual, value-based and emotion-based decision making, and with regard to the contribution of intrinsic motivation versus external incentives.

Under the general topic of emotions and social cognition, our research addresses the neurohormonal mechanisms and the complex interplay between brain hormones and major neurotransmitters systems that are involved in the regulation of emotions, prosocial behaviour, empathy etc. This research includes neuroethological experiments in animal models, clinical/rehabilitation studies in patient populations (schizophrenia, ASD, Alzheimer), and neuro-economics studies aimed at understanding how selfish interest, social preferences (altruism, reciprocity, inequality aversion, etc.) and social interactions influence individual and collective decision-making.

Field 4: Repair, remediation and training

Field leader: Denis Pélisson

This field focuses on brain plasticity mechanisms which allow skill acquisition and performance improvement both in healthy and brain-damaged subjects. When learning new skills (reading, playing music, riding a bicycle), or when facing moderate perturbations (metabolic, emotion- and pain-related stress, sleep deprivation, increased environmental noise/complexity), self-regulatory compensation mechanisms usually ensure effective behavioral and cognitive performance. However, when the perturbation extent exceeds a ‘breaking point’ (major chemical or physical alteration of brain tissues, sense organs, or body parts), self-adjustment no longer suffices and should be complemented by exogenous remediation. Our objective is to explore the capacities and limits of self-regulatory compensation mechanisms and propose innovative exogenous remediation procedures. Based on our long-standing expertise in brain plasticity mechanisms, and the unique interaction between basic and clinical research, specific advances are expected for pathologies including Parkinson's disease and related disorders, pain disorders, sensory-motor, attentional and cognitive impairments, neglect syndrome, deficits of reading and communication skills, and disorders of consciousness. Repair, remediation and rehabilitation procedures include cell therapy, deep brain stimulation, cortical neurostimulation, neurofeedback and brain-computer interface, and sensory-motor and cognitive rehabilitation