Scientific and medical strategy

The ICM is an innovative and ambitious pilot project that offers more than 700 researchers, clinicians, engineers, technicians and support personnel a setting that is unique world-wide.
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THE AMBITIONS OF THE Institut du Cerveau – ICM

  • Become one of the foremost European neuroscience institutes (excellence);
  • Attract the best researchers internationally, in particular in translational neuroscience (attractiveness);
  • Contribute to technological innovation and its applications;
  • Have a strong impact on the prevention and treatment of nervous system diseases;
  • Become a model a public-private partnership;
  • Create a training site that is unique, attractive, international, and opened to society.

Understand the function and dysfunction of the nervous system is a major challenge for research in neuroscience. The nervous system (more particularly the brain) is a very complex system. It is composed of a large number of heterogeneous entities that interact on different scales of spatial (molecular, cellular, intercellular networks, organs, organism, environment…) and temporal (from the millisecond to the year) organization to create structures and collective behaviours that cannot be reduced to the individual behaviours of its constitutive elements.

Understanding the mechanisms of the brain and its pathologies needs the capacity (instrumental and organizational) to acquire pertinent data at each level of organization, analyse them, and correlate them with information obtained at lower or higher levels of complexity. This requires solving several technological and methodological problems. Progress in the exploration of the function/dysfunction of the brain depends, then, on a capacity to develop interactions between biologists/clinicians and other disciplines: engineering, chemistry, physics, informatics and mathematics. Furthermore, the attrition rates of treatments for the nervous system are very high, and a study of the Tuft Center for the Study of Drug Development, in Boston, recently showed that, on the one hand, the development of a pharmacological agent and its marketing have reached a record mean cost of 2.8 billion dollars and, on the other hand, the time needed for the clinical development of approved treatments for nervous system diseases was a mean 18% longer than for molecules developed to treat other pathologies.

Finally, ageing of the population and an increasing prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases have incited developed countries to invest massively to understand and fight against the diseases of the nervous system with medical objectives that include prevention, pre-emption and personalisation.

To meet these challenges, it is necessary for the Institut du Cerveau – ICM to support creative high-risk and ground- breaking approaches that will transform research on the nervous system.

The Institut du Cerveau – ICM has numerous assets and represents a unique opportunity. The Institute brings together, in the same place, a critical mass of well-integrated, talented clinicians and researchers (35% of PIs are clinician-researchers). The Institute profits from productive translational research reinforced by the program of the IHU and the Clinical Investigation Centre. The diversity of the participants offers pluridisciplinary expertise that responds to the challenge of understanding the nervous system. The Institut du Cerveau – ICM has very well equipped core facilities and expert personnel. The Institut du Cerveau – ICM has a strong influence internationally, notably through the research consortia in which its teams participate, and increasing visibility. The presence in the Institut du Cerveau – ICM of the incubator iPEPS infuses an entrepreneurial spirit that diffuses among the teams.


The Institute hosts 25 teams and is structured around 5 major fields of research.


The teams in this field aim at a better understanding of how neural networks on the whole brain scale underpin cognitive, affective, contextual, and motivational processes, and through it translate into behavior. In more detail, the teams combine behavioral testing and clinical assessments with neurophysiology and brain stimulation methods (EEG, TMS, MEG), functional and structural MRI, and mathematical modeling in human and animal models. They investigate how the neural mechanisms of cognitive, affective, contextual, and motivational determinants of behavior are affected by mood disorders, apathy, dementia, consciousness disorders, tumor and vascular lesions causing aphasia, neglect and dysexecutive syndrome.


The teams in this field aim to determine how neural activity at different scales underlies behavior in healthy organisms, and to decipher the mechanisms by which neural activity becomes dysfunctional in neurological disorders such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease (PD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The approaches shared by the Institute’s different teams include the use of multiscale imaging and electrophysiological approaches as well as cutting-edge computational modeling in zebrafish, rodents, non-human primates and humans to study sensory processing and motor control at the synaptic, microcircuit and whole-brain network levels.


The teams of this domain use largely molecular and cellular approaches to understand the genetic, molecular and cellular basis of central nervous system development, function and disease. In more details, the major aims are:

– Unravel how the central nervous system generates cellular diversity and how these cells interconnect and interact to produce the brain and ensure its health throughout life, and how different pathophysiological mechanisms impact various brain areas at different ages.

– Dissect the impact of genetic mutations using animal and human healthy and disease models to decipher the cellular and molecular mechanisms that take place under normal and pathological conditions including aging, neurodegenerative diseases, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cortical malformations and brain tumors.

– Exploit molecular and cellular based approaches to explore and develop new targeted therapies to correct damaged brain networks.


The aim of clinical and translational research is to enable the development of predictive or progression markers and treatments for neurological and psychiatric diseases, from identification in simple laboratory modelling to clinical trials at the Clinical Investigation Center, iCRIN teams, in relationship with clinical teams of the DMU Neurosciences clinical units. The teams aim at:

– Providing innovative tools for clinical assessments of symptoms of neurological and psychiatric disease, diagnosis or progression biomarkers, and new therapeutics for patients. The domain embraces translational research from bench to bedside and vice versa.

– Based on the use of human diseases as models to better understand brain physiology or pathophysiology, the teams also nourish basic research of the Institute by disease modelling, brain mapping, biological samples and cell lines with their counterpart in animal models of neurological and psychiatric diseases.

– Developing well-phenotype and biologically characterized (stratified) cohorts of patients with specific neurologic and psychiatric diseases, including rare diseases, markers and modulation techniques of brain activity, and of innovative molecular imaging tools aiming at quantifying neurodegenerative mechanisms.

– Developing innovative therapeutics and molecular screening strategies (biotherapy systems).


The major aims of the teams focused on this line of research are:

– Mathematical modeling of multi-scale brain mechanisms ranging from molecular/cellular processes,  large-scale integrated structure and dynamics (eg, anatomo-functional interactions), to cognition and behavior.

– Development of data-mining methods including network science, signal/image processing, machine learning and AI, for data interpretation and analysis and for better diagnosis and prognosis in neurological and psychiatric diseases;

–  Development of scientific software and engineering tools for neuroscience applications.


Find all informations in our PDF document.