Emotions & Decision-making

Five teams in the department “Cognitive and Network Neuroscience” at NeuroPSI study how the brain makes appropriate decisions in different contexts, both in health or disease, using different animal models (rodents and insects). Specifically, we study how emotions modulate and contribute to decision-making abilities in different contexts such as social interactions, orientation in space, avoiding danger, or in uncertain and changing environments.

How do different types of brain cells, such as neurons and astrocytes, get activated and adapt their activity and communicate during decision-making? How can external and internal factors, such as hunger or social context, influence neural circuits at the cellular and molecular levels?

To address these questions, we use multidisciplinary approaches that allow us to monitor (via imaging or electrophysiology) or manipulate (using optogenetic tools for example) neural activity during behaviour. This, combined with connectomics and neuroanatomy, allows us to structurally and functionally map neuronal circuits involved in decision-making, from synaptic connections to interactions between different brain regions.

Understanding the neural bases of individual variabilities in the expression of emotions and decisions, in health and disease, will enable us to discover biological markers that may predict individual vulnerability to specific brain disorders. Namely, we focus on understanding specific changes that occur in the brain during stress or depression, and in neurodevelopmental (autism, schizophrenia) as well as genetic disorders (e.g. Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Coffin Lowry syndrome).