Neuroscience is the study of how the nervous system develops, its structure, and what it does. How can we remember what we did yesterday or several years ago? What are the genetic links of the brain structure to psychopathology, and what is the role of sleep in cognitive development? The Scientia Fellows’ research will provide a greater understanding on these issues.

Luca Bordoni

Luca Bordoni

Country of origin: Italy
Hosts: Rune Enger
Group: GliaLab
Thematic area: Neuroscience
Project title: The role of astrocytic signaling in memory formation and spatial encoding 

My project

How can we remember the aspect of our childhood room? During the day, hippocampal neurons called place cells activate in every space we move through. During sleep, place cells prompt the formation of new memories by replaying their daily activity in a highly synchronized pattern (Sharp-wave ripples).

Yet, a crucial question is still unanswered: while sleeping, can other cells also tune this replay? Recently, it has been demonstrated that astrocytes, star-shaped cells with supportive functions, also modulate transitions between sleep phases and synaptic communication. In this project, we will investigate how astrocytes contribute to memory formation by regulating sharp-wave ripples and hippocampal replay.

The results of this study can shed new light on the importance of sleep in forming and retaining new memories. Moreover, it can equip us with basic knowledge on how memory functions, and how it can be  improved as a future target for treatment of memory disorders.

Nadine Parker

Portrait of Nadine Parker

Country of origin: Canada
Host: Ole Andreassen
Group: NORMENT - Centre of Excellence
Thematic area: Neuroimaging
Project title: Genetic architecture of cortical and subcortical grey matter microstructure and shared implications for psychiatric disorders

My project

Neuroimaging research has produced a greater understanding of brain structure and how it relates to disorders. Although, the underlying biology that contributes to changes in brain structure observed in psychiatric disorders remains unclear. Genetic investigations may provide insights into the underlying biology of brain structure and mechanisms of disorders.

I will study the genetic contributions to neuroimaging measures of the microscopic units of brain structure. This will increase the understanding of genes, biological processes, and cell types that contribute to individual variations in brain structure. Additionally, I will explore the genetic overlap between brain microstructure and psychiatric disorders.

This work can provide insight into the underlying neurobiology that may be altered by psychiatric disorders. The implications of this research may inform future treatment and characterization of these disorders.

Solomiia Korchynska

Portrait of Solomiia Korchynska

Country of origin: Ukraine
Host: Dr. Charlotte Boccara
Group: Department of Molecular Medicine
Thematic area: Neuroscience
Project title: Impact of early pharmacologic and optogenetic sleep disturbance on cognitive development.

My project

Sleep is essential for healthy cognitive development. Yet, children are sleeping less and less, giving rise to a public health growing concern. Several studies point to increase sleep dysfunction in children diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder. However, due to technical limitations, we could not – until now ¬– investigate whether early sleep perturbances are an underlying factor contributing to the emergence of neurodevelopment disorders. To address this crucial question, I have designed a multidisciplinary project combining the innovative methods development in the laboratory of Dr. Charlotte Boccara and my own experience in sleep and neuromodulation research.

Finding a critical developmental period where cognitive maturation is vulnerable to sleep manipulation may give a new research direction for the treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders.

Wietske van der Ent

Country of origin: The Netherlands
Host: Camila Esguerra
Group: Centre for Molecular Medicine Norway (NCMM)
Thematic area: Neuroscience
Project title: Dysfunctional SLC6A1: investigating the link between genotypes and phenotypes.

My project

In a healthy brain, GABA transporter 1 (GAT-1, encoded by SLC6A1) is expressed on neuronal cell membranes, where it takes up GABA neurotransmitter and transports it back into the neuron, readying the neuron to signal again. Mutations in SLC6A1 perturb GAT-1 function, impairing its ability to clear GABA after the neuron has fired.

Most individuals carrying SLC6A1 mutations develop epilepsy and suffer from developmental/intellectual disabilities. How SLC6A1 mutations lead to these symptoms and to what extent they will respond to current medications is unclear.

We aim to develop zebrafish models for SLC6A1-linked neuropathies, and perform drugscreens to identify potential therapeutics.