Andrés Abin Carriquiry, PhD

Depto. de Neuroquímica, IIBCE

Daniella Agrati, PhD

Sección Fisiología, Facultad de Ciencias, UdelaR

Affiliative behaviors in mammals, like sexual or maternal behaviors, are associated with affective experiences and share a motivational basis. Our group is interested in understanding how endocrine and environmental factors shape the behavioral response of female rats towards social incentives, as are males for a sexually active female or pups for a mother. Within this framework, we are studying the expression of sexual and maternal motivations during the postpartum estrus, a unique period in which females are sexually and maternally motivated at the same time. Thus, we are analyzing the influence of the context, as well as the neural mechanisms beneath the interaction of these social motivations. In addition, we are studying the expression of the sexual motivation of female rats during adolescence, a transitional period in the lifetime in which neural circuits and endocrine axis that modulate social behaviors and motivational processes are still maturing.

Luis Barbeito, MD, PhD

Laboratorio de Neurodegeneración, Institut Pasteur de Montevideo

Fernanda Blasina, MD

Depto. de Neonatología, Hospital de Clínicas, UdelaR.

Angel Caputi, MD, PhD

Depto. de Neurociencias Integrativas y Computacionales, IIBCE

Our research focuses on the processes of integration and signal processing by the nervous system at different levels of organization. Two areas of particular emphasis in our work are: a) encoding and representation of images and b) the study of the processes of sensorimotor integration. We choose appropriate biological models looking for those that allow the attack of each concrete problem from four viewpoints: structural, functional, ontogenetic and evolutionary. We use various experimental techniques: a) the study of the intrinsic cellular and synaptic properties in vitro, b) the analysis of neural circuits using histological and electrophysiological techniques mainly intra-and extra-cellular, in vivo and in vitro, recordings, and c) the determination of the tasks and algorithms performed by these circuits combining these techniques with behavioral studies. We also explore the transition between different levels of organization and/or integration by combining experimental and computational models

Annabel Ferreira, PhD

Sección Fisiología, Fac. de Ciencias, UdelaR

Gonzalo Ferreira MD, PhD

Depto. de Biofísica, Fac. de Medicina, UdelaR

Our laboratory is interested in many aspects related to the biophysics, physiology and pathology involving ion channels. Related to molecular biophysics, we are interested in the molecular mechanisms of gating in calcium, potassium and Trp channels. Among the calcium channels, we study mainly voltage dependent calcium channels, as well as calcium release channels from intracelullar stores like the Ryanodine receptor and IP3 receptor. In relationship to Potassium channels, we are interested mostly in the Slo channels, which are gated by voltage and intracelullar ligands. In Trp channels, we are interested mostly in understanding the thermal sensitivity among these channels. All these research can be applied to understand many molecular issues related to ion channel functioning, as well as to cell physiology questions in many diverse cells. Some of the molecular issues are applied with genetics in the field of channelopathies and of basic pharmacology. Regarding the physiology of ion channels, we study mostly their involvement in the context of reproduction (spermatozoa), cardiac and smooth muscle. Our research involving pathology, is mostly related to the impact of the environment and genetics in ion channel functioning in the heart, smooth muscle and spermatozoids. We perform at the same time basic and applied research, studying how channels are associated to work in the cells mentioned. Pharmacological and genetic interventions, related to pathological issues, help us to understand both: the damaging processes at the molecular level and the normal functioning and association of ion channels that can be disrupted with all these agents. Finally, our lab is also interested in designing hardware and software related to record the activity of ion channels from different cells and systems “in vivo, that can be used as a para-clinic tool.

Flavio Zolessi, PhD

Sección Biología Celular, DBCM, Fac. de Ciencias, UdelaR

In vertebrates, the central nervous system neurons arise from an extremely ordered tissue, the neuroepithelium. Our group is interested in understanding the mechanisms that underlie neuroepithelial differentiation (during neurulation) and neuronal differentiation, focusing in the roles and transitions of cell polarity during these processes. For example, we study the roles of polarized structures and signaling molecules in the differentiation process of retinal ganglion cells and photoreceptors. We also analyze the functions of actin-modulating proteins in the regulation of neural tube morphogenesis. For these studies, we use both zebrafish and chick embryos, and different experimental approaches such as genetic manipulations through microinjection or electroporation of DNA, RNA or antisense oligos, transgenic labeling of cells and subcellular structures, immunofluorescence and in vivo confocal microscopy.

Victoria Gradín, PhD

Centro de Investigación Básica en Psicología, Fac. de Psicología, UdelaR

Psychiatric disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, addictions and social anxiety are common disorders that can be very disabling, contributing significantly to the global burden of disease. The aim of my research is to contribute to the understanding of the decision making processes and neural mechanisms that underlie psychiatric disorders, using a combination of neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), behavioural experiments and computational models of brain function. Some of my work has focused on the neural basis of abnormal reinforcement learning processes in patients with depression and patients with substance misuse dependency. Reinforcement learning implies the ability to learn by interacting with the environment to gain rewards and to avoid punishments. This ability may be compromised in depression, with patients often achieving low rates of positive reinforcement from the environment, and in addictions, with patients seeking and taking drugs despite negative consequences. Other projects focus on finding neural biomarkers of abnormal social interactions in depression and social anxiety. This is pursued trough the use of fMRI and EEG in combination with behavioural tasks that allow to recreate interactive scenarios.

Patricia Lagos, PhD

Depto. de Fisiología, Fac.de Medicina, UdelaR

Neuropeptides are among the most diverse group of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators within the central nervous system (CNS) of mammals. They produce their physiological effects through the activation of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR) with the particular characteristic that they suffer an internalization into the cell with the ligand. Previously we just studied the participation of one of such neuropeptides, melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) in the sleep-wake cycle and in depression in rats with several in vivo approaches. In our research group we are interested in understanding the mechanism of action of MCH at their endogenous GPCR, the MCHR-1 type, in different areas in the CNS of the rat using in vivo and in vitro experimental approaches in order to elucidate the internalization process and the intracellular cascade that MCH activate. For these studies, we use in vivo stereotaxic microinjections, tissue processing, immunofluorescence, epifluorescence and confocal microscopy, and in vitro primary culture neurons from embryonic raphe nucleus and hippocampus.

Eduardo Mizraji, MD

Sección Biofísica, Fac. de Ciencias, UdelaR

Our recent work concerns the neural modeling of the generation of symbolic activities, including the logical operations involved in some process of reasoning. Recently, we explore with top-down models how simple prepositions of common language (e.g.: behind, after, on), trigger the recognition of spatial or temporal asymmetries. In our heuristic approach, we assume that these prepositions act as passwords that give access to neural processes connecting different hierarchical levels of coding, running from the concrete phonetic of the words towards the abstract symbolic neural computations.

Silvia Olivera, PhD

Neurobiología Celular y Molecular - Depto. de Neurociencias Integrativas y Computacionales, IIBCE

Hugo Peluffo, PhD

Instituto Pasteur de Montevideo.
Fac. de Medicina, UdelaR

Inflammation is a set of complex interactions between soluble factors, extracellular matrix and cells, which is induced in any tissue in response to injury or infection. Checkpoints for the control of inflammatory mechanisms, which are induced as a result of the activation of the inflammatory cascade, have gained a high degree of importance and interest in the field of immunology. Importantly, recent findings suggest that the anti-inflammatory state is not only a passive state resulting from an absence of inflammatory stimuli, but an active condition that requires participation of several molecules responsible for the supression of potentially inflammatory stimuli. This is one of the central hypothesis of our research group. In this sense, regulation of immune cell function by inhibitory/regulatory receptors has been characterized in the immune system, and just recently few studies have attempted their participation in the regulation of microglial cell activation after acute CNS injury. Balance between the destructive/protective events of the innate response must be precisely regulated in order to limit initial toxicity and promote CNS repair and a return to homeostatic conditions. In the last few years, promising activating/inhibitory immune receptors have been highlighted as new targets for the control and modulation of microglia/macrophage responses include the CD200/CD200R system, TREM-2 receptor and the recently described family of CD300 receptors. We also contribute to the development of gene therapy applications for acute CNS pathologies. More info in http://pasteur.uy/en/laboratorios-eng/lntg

Giselle Prunell, PhD

Dpto. de Neuroquímica, IIBCE.

The major focus of our research group is to study the cellular mechanisms of neuronal death in pathological conditions and to test novel molecules with potential as neuroprotective agents. We employ cellular and in vivo toxin models of experimental Parkinson’s Disease together with immunohistochemical, biochemical and behavioral approaches to address the degenerative process. Our current research activities include: a)- the neuroprotective capacity of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonism, studying the effect of nicotine (the prototype agonist of these receptors) on the experimental Parkinson´s Disease models, the subtype of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors involved and the intracellular cascades implicated in its pro-survival effects; and b)- the evaluation of natural flavones with protective capacity on our experimental models and the design and assessment of new synthetic flavones with chemical substitutions aiming to increase their pro-survival properties and bioavailability to improve their neuroprotective effects.

Pablo Torterolo, MD, PhD

Depto. de Fisiología, Fac. de Medicina, UdelaR

Pablo Torterolo is MD and PhD (Neuroscience) from the Universidad de la República (UdelaR), Uruguay.  He carried out post-doctoral studies in the University of Bologna, Italy, and in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  He is currently Associate Professor of the Department of Physiology of the School of Medicine, UdelaR.  He is also Professor of the “Programa de Desarrollo de Ciencias Básicas” (PEDECIBA) and Researcher of the “Sistema Nacional de Investigadores”.  His investigations have been awarded with the prize of the National Academy of Medicine (as co-author) and with the Elio García-Austt award.  His research is centered on the neurobiology and pathophysiology of sleep.  Specifically, he has studied by different methodological approaches the role of the mesopontine region and the hypothalamus in the control of sleep and wakefulness, and in the pathophysiology of Narcolepsy and Depression.  He is also studying the gamma frequency band of the EEG during wakefulness, sleep and in animal models of psychosis.

Michel Borde, MD, PhD

Depto. de Fisiología, Fac. de Medicina, UdelaR

We are particularly interested in the neural basis of behavior with emphasis on the cellular and synaptic levels of integration. Our main research lines focus on: (l) The neural strategies for the development of electromotor outputs in vertebrates.E lectrophysiological analysis of a central pacemaker nucleus, the command source for the generation of electrical signals used for the exploration and sensory communication in electric fish. (ll) Behavioral state-dependent synaptic plasticity. Analysis in rat brainstem slices of the cholinergic modulation of synaptic efficacy in a mesopontine neural network involved in the control of REM sleep and wakefulness.

Ruben Budelli, PhD

Sección Biomatemática, Fac. de Ciencias, UdelaR

Patricia Cassina MD, PhD

Dpto. de Histología y Embriología, Fac. de Medicina, UdelaR.

Astrocytes are multitalented glial cells that contribute with neuronal survival. Following damage in the Central Nervous System astrocytes undergo functional and morphological changes known as reactive gliosis. Our goal is to understand the mechanisms by which reactive astrocytes may affect neuronal survival or function in the human neurodegenerative disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Recently we have shown that mitochondrial function in reactive astrocytes is associated to a neurotoxic phenotype that induces motor neuron death which may contribute to disease progression. Using cellular and animal models of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) we have demonstrated mitochondrially targeted pharmacology restored mitochondrial dysfunction in reactive astrocytes and delayed motor symptoms of the disease. We are currently developing different strategies to selectively targeted therapies to astrocyte mitochondria in order to halt motor neuron death in ALS. The final goal of the latter is to gain knowledge on the role of astrocyte-neuron interaction in neurodegenerative diseases.

Federico Dajas, MD

Depto. de Neuroquímica, IIBCE

Leonel Gómez, PhD

Laboratorio de Neurociencias, Fac. de Ciencias, UdelaR

Our work is inscribed within the field of cognitive neuroscience, which investigates the neurophysiological basis of cognitive phenomena, centered on perceptual phenomena. One line of my work deals with electrolocation, the sensory system of weakly electric fish. We have contributed in elucidating different aspects of the mechanisms ranging from the cellular level to behavior. We have clarified aspects of the physical process of generating the electric image by elucidating its neural coding and processing in central structures. Regardless of the particularities of each sensory system, general theoretical problems appear to be related to the adequacy of neural mechanisms and behavioral strategies for timely obtaining relevant information. This implies effective mechanisms and selectivity given by sensorimotor schemes that pursue a behavioral goal. In this sense, our work shows that the sensory aspects are strongly influenced by evolutionary and ecological aspects. Recently, studying the natural sensory flow, we have provided evidence of the active and task specific nature of the strategies of electrolocation and its analogies with other active sensory modalities as echolocation and touch. In parallel, with the same perspective, we study the mechanisms involved in the visual perception in human subjects using psychophysical techniques, electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings, and models. We use visual stimulation protocols designed to generate evidence about the existence of particular structures and processes forcing the system to act within the limits of its capacity. We measure behavior under these conditions, using psychophysical techniques (reaction time, forced alternatives, etc.) and observe systematic biases that correlate with the physical characteristics of the stimulus. Consistency of those response biases provides support for the functional and structural hypothesis about sensory processing. EEG recordings allow us to identify components in the evoked potentials and in the time frequency response that put in evidence cortical neuronal correlates of perceptual phenomena.

Omar Macadar, MD

Omar Macadar, MD

Raúl Russo, PhD

Depto. de Neurofisiología Celular y Molecular, IIBCE.

Member of the Organizing Committee. Dr. Russo is the Head of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Neurophysiology. The work in his department focuses in understanding the processes that regulate stem cell biology and the role they could play in repairing the injured nervous system. To address these problems we use a multi-technical approach that combines the use of "in vivo" and "in vitro"preparations, "patch-clamp" recordings, immunohistochemistry, Ca2+ imaging, confocal and electron microscopy and molecular biology. A better understanding of the mechanisms that regulate properties such as the proliferation and lineage potential of progenitors will provide key information for the future development of cell replacement therapies. We are also interested in the synaptic and cellular mechanisms of sensorimotor integration. We study the role of intrinsic electrophysiological properties in the transfer of the information carried by the primary afferents and the mechanisms regulating synaptic transmission at the first synapse in the somatosensory system. Our studies provided the first functional evidence of a non-spiking microcircuit in the spinal cord that can regulate synaptic efficacy. Our goal is to understand the nature of this microcircuit that generates a conspicuous component of the primary afferent depolarization during pre-synaptic inhibition.

Cecilia Scorza, PhD

Depto. de Neurofarmacología Depto. de Neurofarmacología Experimental, IIBCE.

The goals of the Department are focused on the study of the brain circuits involved in the physiopathology and treatment of major depression and schizophrenia. About depression, we are interested in the melanin concentrating hormone (MCH) role in the induction of a depressive-state. Taking into account that hypothalamic MCHergic neurons send projections to the Dorsal raphe and Locus Coerulus nuclei (brain regions related to the neurobiology of depression and the mechanism of action of antidepressant drugs) we investigate how the MCHergic system interacts with these regions and how induces depressive behavioral states. To address these issues we use behavioral, neurochemical and immunohistochemical approaches, and confocal and electron microscopy. About schizophrenia, different evidences have proved the involvement of thalamo-cortical circuits in the psychotomimetic action of the non-competitive NMDA receptor antagonists (used as a pharmacological model of schizophrenia). We study the connections between the reticular and anterior thalamic nuclei and their main projections to the retrosplenial cortex and hippocampus and its participation in behaviors related with psychosis and cognitive impairments induced by MK-801 (the most potent NMDA antagonist). Behavioral, pharmacological and immunohistochemical approaches are used to achieve these objectives. Besides, in the last years we began to study the factors that could determine the fast and great dependence induced by addictive drugs. We are studying the relevance of some active adulterants commonly found in seized cocaine samples (caffeine and phenacetine) and the route of administration (pulmonary inhalation) in the dependence and toxicity of smoked cocaine. We include in our studies, chemical analysis of seized samples, behavioral and neurochemical approaches.

Ana Silva, PhD

Unidad bases Neurales de la Conducta, IIBCE - Laboratorio de Neurociencias, Fac. de Ciencias, UdelaR

Understanding how the brain controls social behavior in vertebrates is extremely challenging, but the conservation of a core social brain network across vertebrate taxa allows the use of tractable animal model systems to gain insight into general strategies of control. Our group is interested in the study of neuroendocrine basis of social behavior with a neuroethological approach in which we analyze both environmental influences as well as evolutionary aspects, combining field work, behavioral recordings, pharmacological modulations, electrophysiology, endocrine, cellular, and transcriptomic approaches. We are currently focusing on the study of the role of hypothalamic neuropeptides (vasotocin in particular) and steroid hormones (estradiol in particular) in the modulation of different types of aggression displayed by both native weakly electric fish and annual fish.

Prof. Omar Trujillo-Cenóz

Depto. de Neurofisiología Celular y Molecular, IIBCE.