The laboratory is interested in the genetic and epigenetic basis of cognitive functions and behavior in mammals. It investigates intracellular signaling pathways and epigenetic mechanisms that underlie the formation of memory, and brain plasticity in adulthood. A focus is placed on pathways that negatively regulate memory and induce forgetting, in particular those that involve protein phosphatases. The role and modes of action of these pathways, and their implication in brain pathologies characterized by cognitive impairment, are studied in vivo and in vitro by a combination of genetic, molecular, behavioral, electrophysiological, proteomic and imaging methods. Mouse models in which the activity of specific protein phosphatases, their substrates or regulatory partners can be modulated inducibly and reversibly in brain areas involved in memory formation are genetically engineered by classical or lentivirus-mediated transgenesis and the impact on learning and memory performance, and on synaptic transmission and plasticity is examined.
Another line of research in the laboratory examines the influence of the environment on behavior, and how interacting environmental, genetic and epigenetic factors can modulate behavioral responses across generations. A mouse model of early trauma based on unpredictable maternal deprivation and maternal stress, and exhibiting severe behavioral defects in adulthood was established. The behavioral symptoms are comparable to depressive symptoms, impulsivity and antisocial behaviors in human and are transmitted across several generations. Molecular investigations are currently underway to determine the potential epigenetic mechanisms responsible for the behavioral alterations and their transmission, and their possible reversibility or correction by drugs or environmental treatments.