Laboratorio de circuitos neuronales de las emociones
Dr. Joaquin Pirez
JEFE DE GRUPO
Profesor Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires
Investigador Independiente CONICET
Group/Laboratory of Neural Circuits of Emotions
“Alvy Singer’s Therapist: How often do you sleep together?
Annie Hall’s Therapist: Do you have sex often?
Alvy Singer: Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week.
Annie Hall: Constantly. I’d say three times a week.”
That famous dialogue from the movie Annie Hall exemplifies a central feature of human beings, subjectivity. Our lab studies brain circuits that perform subjective evaluation of stimuli and generate emotions using rodents as models. We are currently centered in the brain nucleus of the Lateral Habenula, the so-called brain nucleus of disappointment.
Our methodological approach combines behavioral analysis, in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology and in vivo and in vitro calcium imaging.
Our two main lines of research could be summarized as follows:
Fear is a highly adaptive behavior that prevents subjects from approaching harmful stimuli. In nature stimuli to be feared do not appear twice in the same form, thus animals should generalize their fear of past stimuli to future stimuli that show an appropriate level of similarity. However, exacerbated fear generalization is maladaptive and lies at the core of psychiatric diseases like phobias or post-traumatic stress disorders. We have recently described that the brain nucleus of the Lateral Habenula regulates fear generalization. We are currently investigating how the interaction between the Lateral Habenula, the Hippocampus and the Amygdala regulates that process.
The brain nucleus of the Lateral Habenula has been related to the genesis of depressive disorders. The LHb is targeted by unique synapses that co-transmit the neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate. We investigate synaptic plasticity at those synapses. Our idea is that GABA/glutamate balance at those synapses could be a target to treat depression.
Mariano Belluscio, IFIBIO “Houssay” UBA-CONICET
Ricardo Sánchez-Peña, ITBA-CONICET
Jorge Medina, IBCN Prof. E. de Robertis, UBA-CONICET
Pablo Mendez, Instituto Cajal, Spain
Christophe Proulx, CERVO center, Universite LAVAL, Canada
Sadegh Nabavi, DANDRITE, Aarhus, Denmark