Selected Ongoing Projects
THE REWARD SYSTEM IN AUTISM
Recent studies have demonstrated the role of the mesolimbic dopamine system (so called reward circuitry) in autism. We are currently studying if and how this circuit, and its modulating systems, is affected in disease models of autism. This could potentially lead to the development of targeted treatments aimed at restoring or compensating the neurochemical imbalance.
FUNDING: MICINN 2018
OXYTOCIN FOR AUTISM?
Several lines of evidence, from animal models to human studies, suggest an association of the oxytocin neurotransmission system and autism. In addition, the small clinical trials performed to date with oxytocin -or related agonists- in patients with autism show promising results. We are investigating the mechanisms by which oxytocin exerts its behavioral effects. Also, as oxytocin is involved in several neurobiological processes during development, we aim to understand the consequences of oxytocin signaling defects in models of autism.
FUNDING: MINECO 2015
ABNORMAL CROSSTALK BETWEEN MIGRATING NEURONS
AS UNDERLYING FACTOR IN ASD
During cortical development, migrating Projection Neurons (PNs) and Interneurons (INs) interact in such a way that impaired migration of each of these major classes of neurons affects the number and location of the other. In the present project we propose an impaired spatio-temporal crosstalk between migrating PNs and INs as shared pathomechanism in ASD. We will carry out a multidisciplinary approach to study different systems, from animal models to state of the art in vitro cultures including ‘next generation’ patient-derived brain organoids harboring mutations in ASD-associated genes involved in neuronal migration. In short, we will be able provide important new insights into a potential new signature driving neurodevelopmental pathological mechanisms in autism.
FUNDING: ERANET-Neuron 2018 (ACPIN 2019)
Network of European Funding for Neuroscience Research
IN VIVO CIRCUIT MAPPING OF SOCIAL BEHAVIOR
In collaboration with Dr. Peyman Golshani at UCLA we are implementing in vivo calcium imaging with a surgically implanted miniature fluorescence microscope to record neural activity during social settings in freely moving mice.
See the Miniscope project at www.miniscope.org