Learning and memory are essential processes for the establishment and execution of high-level cognitive functions, such as the acquisition of knowledge and skills, and decision-making. Learning enables the selection of appropriate behaviours under the influence of environmental changes and the subject’s own behavior. These complex processes involve the temporal coding, filtering, comparison and linking of various types of information (sensory, temporal, spatial, contextual…), as well as the storage, recall and modification of memories. They also require processing of sensorimotor information and communication signals.
Our goals are to identify the brain structures, neural networks and network dynamics that underlie these cognitive processes. We are developing tools to observe and analyze them, or modulate them, to better understand how multiple emotional, attentional, motivational, and genetic factors, among others, can promote or disrupt these processes. We study how past events and changes in the environment are integrated so that the subject can anticipate and plan actions, make decisions and express flexible and adapted behavior, even in a context with uncertainties. We are also studying the adaptation of communication systems and social cognition depending on social and environmental constraints in the natural environment.
We seek to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms contributing to the modification of neural networks (synaptic, structural and functional plasticity, adult neurogenesis, neuro-glial-vascular interactions), as well as the genetic, physiological and environmental factors capable of modulating brain plasticity and cognitive functions. The study of the adaptive capacities of neural networks also leads us to the development of new approaches in neuroinformatics, computational neuroscience and neuroengineering, to model and simulate brain activity, and to develop brain-machine interfaces.
All of these approaches make it possible to characterize physiological mechanisms in healthy subjects, as well as physiopathological mechanisms responsible for learning and memory deficits in certain neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative or traumatic diseases, and to identify therapeutic strategies that can be tested to evaluate their potential to compensate for these central disorders.