Appointment of Mavi Sanchez-Vives, Group leader
can't think of a better field than brain research: it encompasses everything from cell biology to network computations, from neurons to thoughts and consciousness, from brain interfaces to the repairing of functions

Current research

Problem

The group studies the electrical waves produced by the brain. Researchers try to understand how these oscillations and their functions are generated in different brain states such as vigilance, sleep and anaesthesia, both in healthy conditions and in the case of neurological diseases. The group also studies applications for virtual reality in neurorehabilitation.

Approach

The group studies the activity generated by the brain and, in particular, by the cerebral cortex. It wants to find out how different spatiotemporal patterns of activity are generated by the underlying networks and the cellular and network mechanisms that create brain rhythms.

Human beings have a single brain, but it can exist in very different states which can be physiological (asleep, awake), pathological (such as coma) or pharmacological (such as anaesthesia). The group uses electrophysiological recordings of the brain along with computational simulations to understand the dynamics of the neural networks in these different states.

It also collaborates with other colleagues in the development of new technologies to interface with the brain, such as microarrays of graphene, or photopharmacology, as well as new computational tools for data analysis. The group is also interested in designing virtual reality environments as a neurorehabilitation tool.

Impact

The group has found that the emergent activity of the cortical network provides information about the underlying network. It has described alterations of slow rhythms in different conditions (early ageing, Alzheimer’s disease, Williams syndrome, Down syndrome). It has also obtained significant information regarding transitions between brain states.

The group would like to identify whether it can interact with the brain tissue in order to modulate its activity and induce the repair of functions that have deteriorated or have been lost, and to do this it needs to understand better how the brain works.