Appointment of Jaime De La Rocha, Group leader
Our goal is to understand how the electrical activity of millions of interconnected neurons in our brains can carry out the complex computations that produce our perception, our thoughts and, ultimately, our behaviour

Current research

Problem

Cognitive deficits are common in mental disorders. Nonetheless, there is no cognitive test sensitive enough to establish a precise classification and quantification of such deficits, which would make it possible to obtain an effective diagnosis.  The vast majority of the neural bases of these deficits are still unknown, mainly because the underlying neural mechanisms of most of the cognitive functions of the healthy brain are not properly understood.

For this reason, it is essential to design new behavioural assays for use in both animal models and patients, to investigate the underlying neural mechanisms and develop efficient therapies.

Approach

The group studies the way in which cognitive functions such as perception, working memory, and decision-making emerge from different neural circuits. To do this, controlled behavioural experiments are conducted with rodents in which the team records their electrophysiological measurements and controls their brain activity.

In addition, the group uses a wide range of analytical techniques, including neural network computational models, and applies this approach to obtain an understanding of the underlying mechanisms of those cognitive deficits normally present in neurological disorders, such as anti-NMDAR encephalitis and schizophrenia.

Impact

In recent years, the group has conducted diverse behavioural studies on rodents to investigate the way in which they make perceptive decisions based on ambiguous sensorial information and previous experience, including a description of the role of the different areas of the brain in performing the computations inherent to this task.

Furthermore, it is investigating the neural bases of working memory in mice during automated behavioural tasks combined with monitoring neural activity, with the objective of applying such tasks to different mental disorders in animal models.