Appointment of Josep Dalmau, Group leader (R4)
In neuroscience as in medicine, nothing is more exciting than to discover a new disease and try to understand its physiopathology. These are the paths to the treatment of patients and their ultimate cure

Current research

Problem

The principal objective of the group is the study of autoimmune/inflammatory brain diseases including multiple sclerosis, autoimmune encephalitis and paraneoplastic neurologic disorders among others. We aim to identify novel biologic, genetic, immunologic, and neuroimaging biomarkers that will allow for early and accurate disease diagnoses and have prognostic value. Studies are also aimed at elucidating the underlying immunopathogenic disease mechanisms through studies that link immunological processes to abnormal neuronal function.

Approach

The group aims to discover the mechanisms of these diseases by carrying out studies aimed at understanding how autoimmunity alters the structure and function of neurons and brain circuits that results in changes in behavior,  memory, movements and other neurological symptoms.

The research is carried out in the clinic with the participation of patients and in the laboratory where patient derived samples (generally blood or cerebrospinal fluid) are studied. Research techniques include antibody screening with immune staining using brain tissue, immunocytochemistry with cell preparations, brain receptor expression techniques in cell assays, immunoprecipitation and sequencing of neuronal proteins, and the determination of the effects of antibodies at the synaptic and brain-circuit levels.

Impact

The impact has been considerable. The group has discovered 16 novel diseases, developed diagnostic guidelines for autoimmune brain disease, modified diagnostic and treatment paradigms in neurology and psychiatry, and created diagnostic tests.

It has discovered the basic mechanisms of these diseases and produced animal models. It has written chapters on the diseases in the most important books on internal medicine (Harrison), paediatrics (Nelson), neurology (Daroff) and oncology (Abeloff). Two members of the group appear on the Clarivate list as highly cited authors in neuroscience and behaviour.