Cellular Neurophysiology

The function of the thalamocortical (TC) system gives rise to sensorimotor transformations and cognition. The electrical activity of the neurons in this system is the substrate of oscillations recorded with EEG that are characteristic of different physiological or pathological global brain states. In turn, some oscillations of the TC system are believed to promote the synchronization of neuronal assemblies during cognitive tasks, whereas others are correlated with unconscious states. In our lab, we study the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying oscillations of the TC system. In particular, we study the ion channels responsible for the intrinsically or extrinsically driven oscillations of thalamocortical neurons. TC neurons, the principal neurons of the thalamus, play important roles in the control of the flow of information in the TC system under physiological conditions as well as in the generation and propagation of epileptic activity. We aim at characterizing all molecular and cellular elements that participate in the generation; maintenance and control of intrinsic oscillations of TC neurons at the same time that we study the interactions of the different signals arriving on the somatodendritic compartments of these neurons from different sources of the TC system, such as cortex and reticular thalamus and from other subcortical structures. For this characterization and analysis, we currently use electrophysiological recording techniques in combination with computational methods and hybrid implementations such as dynamic clamp. In the near future we will implement molecular techniques and optogenetics to test directly emergent hypothesis on the role of particular ion channels in the etiopathogenesis of epilepsy.