The main challenge of neuroscience is to define the way in which the activity of the neurons in networks determines human behaviour, and the failures that give rise to brain disorders
Many neurological and psychiatric disorders that affect the activity of the brain eventually end up causing alterations in the cognitive functions of the prefrontal cortex. These alterations are subtle and difficult to treat but can have extremely incapacitating effects on normal life. Of all the cognitive functions affected, short-term memory (or working memory) is one of the most interesting to study, and requires understanding of the neural circuits in order to try and improve patient well-being.
The group studies cognitive function in patients with autoimmune encephalitis and in patients with schizophrenia based on computer-based behavioural testing, EEG recordings and fMRI.
These tests on humans are combined with the analysis of electrophysiological data recorded in the cerebral cortex of animals while they perform working memory tasks. The ultimate objective is to formulate silicon computational models that link neural activity with the human cognitive function and serve as a mechanistic model with the predictive power to understand brain diseases.
The group has made important contributions to defining a spatial mechanistic working-memory model based on computational simulations. They have validated this model with electrophysiological and behavioural data in non-human primates and demonstrated the way in which the model makes behavioural predictions for validation in behavioural experiments in humans. In experiments with patients, highly specific alterations were detected in spatial working-memory behavioural parameters that could be useful in diagnosing or monitoring these diseases.