The nervous system controls the interaction of organisms with their environment and maintains the activity of vital organs in the body.
Understanding how functional neuronal ensembles emerge during development, how they process information from the outside world and govern our activities in it, and how they respond to environmental challenges, injury or disease to maintain a healthy state, remain major challenges of this century.
Our diverse and interactive research programmes in the Neuroscience interest group (NIG) address these fundamental questions in different experimental model organisms (mice, zebrafish and Drosophila) and a range of genetic, imaging and electrophysiological recording methodologies. In particular, we aim to understand the mechanisms that control neural stem cell function and how multiple neuronal and glial cell types are generated during development and maintained throughout life. We seek to identify the molecular pathways implicated in the formation of specialised anatomical and functional domains of the nervous system and understand how axons and dendrites are assembled into functional neural circuits. Our studies focus on uncovering the properties of neural circuits dedicated to sensory information processing, including olfaction and vision. We investigate how neuronal networks generate complex behaviors and control homeostatic body functions, such as sleep and food intake. Finally, we explore how the integrated activity of the nervous and immune systems contributes to defense against pathogens and maintains homeostasis.
These studies are highly relevant for elucidating the pathogenetic mechanisms of neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative and other common disorders and provide a rational basis for the development of innovative therapeutic strategies.