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Research Group
Plasticity of Brain Networks
Unit Unit Cellular and Systems Neurobiology »

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Principal Investigator Associated Investigators Ph.D. Investigator Graduate students / Research Assistant Technician Administration
Research Fields
How are memories encoded, stored and retrieved in our brains?
Experience-dependent modulations of synaptic strength shape the functional structure of the brain, recruiting relevant networks in a particular context and supporting behavioural adaptation. Little is known, however, about how synapse dynamics are transformed into network dynamics. The work of our lab has demonstrated that brain circuits involved in learning and memory are functionally reorganized after local potentiation of synaptic transmission in the hippocampus. We are currently investigating the mechanisms underlying this network reorganization, focusing on short- and long-term synaptic plasticity and the excitatory/inhibitory balance in specific brain regions. In doing so, we study the mechanism that govern information routing in the complex network of parallel and highly distributed connections implemented in the brain. We use different animal models and combine functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with electrophysiological recordings, electric or optogenetic stimulations of targeted regions, and behavioural testing.

The same cellular mechanisms that mediate experience-dependent neuroplasticity and allow learning from, and react to, changes in the environment can also be activated by drugs of abuse. Human and animal studies indicate that the refractory nature of addiction results from drug-induced stimulation of reward-related learning networks. As a consequence, drug seeking behaviour becomes hard-wired in the addict’s brain. By applying the same multidisciplinary approach, we are investigating the functional reorganization of brain networks supporting addiction and relapse.

Representative Publications

Lopez-Madrona VJ , Pérez-Montoyo E, Álvarez-Salvado E, Moratal D,Herreras O, Pereda E, Mirasso CR, Canals S " Different theta frameworks coexist in the rat hippocampus and are coordinated during memory-guided and novelty tasks. " eLife . 9:e57313 , doi - 10.7554/eLife.57313. ( 2020 )

De Santis S. , Cosa-Linan, R. Garcia-Hernandez, L. Dmytrenko, L. Vargova, I. Vorisek, S. Stopponi, P. Bach, P. Kirsch, F. Kiefer, R. Ciccocioppo, E. Sykova, D. Moratal, W. H. Sommer, S. Canals. " Chronic alcohol consumption alters extracellular space geometry and transmitter diffusion in the brain. " Science Adv . 6(26) , - eaba0154. ( 2020 )

De Santis S , Bach P, Pérez - Cervera L, Cosa-Linan A, Weil G, Vollstädt - Klein S, Hermann D, Kiefer F, Kirsch P, Ciccocioppo R, Sommer WH, Canals S. " Microstructural White Matter Alterations in Men With Alcohol Use Disorder and Rats With Excessive Alcohol Consumption During Early Abstinence. " JAMA Psychiatry . 76(7) , 749 - 758 ( 2019 )

Del Ferraro G , Moreno A, Min B, Morone F, Pérez-Ramírez Ú, Pérez-Cervera L, Parra LC, Holodny A, Canals S*, Makse HA*. " Finding influential nodes for integration in brain networks using optimal percolation theory. " Nat Commun . 9(1) , - 2274 ( 2018 )

Alvarez-Salvado E , Pallarés V, Moreno A, Canals S*. " Functional MRI of long-term potentiation: imaging network plasticity. " Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci . 369(1633) , - 20130152 ( 2013 ) * Corresponding author
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
Universidad Miguel Hernández

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