Understand and treat the diseases and traumas of the nervous system is a major challenge for the 21st century world-wide. Today medicine relieves… Tomorrow, it must prevent, cure and repair.
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The scientific objective of the Institut du Cerveau – ICM is to understand the causes and the mechanisms of the major pathologies of the nervous system, and to propose new and specific treatments in the short term. Thanks to progress in neuroscience research, the treatments for diseases of the nervous system, which were overall considered to be symptomatic and palliative, will become more effective and even preventive and curative.

It is thus the responsibility of all of us to reinforce research to:

  • Prevent or stop the evolution of these disorders; it’s the role of molecular and cellular neurobiology ;
  • Increase the well-being of patients with chronic and incapacitating disorders; it’s the role of the neurophysiological, cognitive and social sciences.

From genes to behaviour and from behaviour to genes, research will be global. The approaches in the fields of molecular and cellular neurobiology, neurophysiology, cognitive science and therapeutics were up to now realized in a dispersed manner all over the planet. Bring together these activities in the same place is to assure being able to propose high level treatments to patients. In this sense, the Institut du Cerveau – ICM is a pole of research that is unique in the world.

The Institut du Cerveau – ICM is 600 researcher and technicians who work on:

  • The mechanisms of cell death
  • The neurodegenerative diseases and aging
  • The neural code and synaptic transmission
  • Epilepsy and related diseases
  • Neurodevelopment and glial cells
  • Multiple sclerosis and related diseases
  • The neuronal bases of movement, cognition and emotions
  • Parkinson disease, Alzheimer disease, depression, schizophrenia, …
  • Neuronal plasticity and repair
  • Brain and spinal cord trauma

Neurological disorders affect about a billion persons throughout the world. With the aging of the population, this number is going to increase. For example, in France, life expectancy has increased by 15 years over the last 50 years: 1 out of 2 girls who are born today will be a centenarian. In 2050, 1 Frenchman out of 3 will be over 60 (1 in 5 in 2005).

Every year throughout the world 50 million persons are hurt or become invalids due to traumas caused by traffic accidents, with a high frequency of cranial or spinal cord traumas. These figures should increase considerably from now to 2020, especially in developing countries.

The social impact on the victims and their families is considerable because of the motor, intellectual and psychic handicaps that are the consequence. As a result, the economic and social consequences for society are very significant.


The brain receives information from our senses, treats this information to form thoughts and command our behaviour in the form of movements. By disrupting or interrupting brain function, diseases and accidents cause motor, intellectual and psychic handicaps, often with dramatic personal, familial and social consequences.

Neurological diseases
Degenerative disorders (Alzheimer, Parkinson, Huntington, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, myopathies…), stroke, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, brain tumours, childhood genetic diseases, Gilles de la Tourette disease…

Psychiatric diseases
Depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorders, autism…

Brain and spinal cord traumas
In Europe, traffic accidents kill 60000 and injure 1500000 persons each year. They are the cause of hemiplegia, tetraplegia, sequellae of cranial traumas necessitating intense medical care, often lifelong.

Severe pathologies
In addition to the undeniable suffering that they cause, brain lesions have immediate consequences, such as paralysis, insensibility, loss of sight, alteration of mental functions…

These handicaps lead to loss of autonomy and dependency, often almost total, of the person; the consequences for the family and society are also considerable.

Whether it’s a young poly-traumatized patient whose spinal cord is damaged because of an accident or a subject in his best years who is brutally paralysed by a brain embolism, the prognosis depends on measures taken immediately (reanimation, biological and radiological examinations). The presence of specialists (emergency room personnel, neurosurgeons, orthopaedists) at each stage of the drama is also decisive.

Improving the quality of care requires multidisciplinary medical practice and the continuous development of diagnostic and therapeutic tools. This is one justification of the Institut du Cerveau – ICM project.

Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by premature and selective aging of nerve cells. The frequency of these disorders increases with age, while the aging of the population is accelerating. Neurodegeneration can affect the cerebral cortex (Alzheimer disease), deep brain structures (Parkinson disease), the spinal cord (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).

Multiple sclerosis and inflammatory diseases of the nervous system begin in the young adult and drastically change his future life.

Stroke, whether because of haemorrhage or infarct, constitute the first cause of handicap.

Tumours are sometimes benign and treated by neurosurgery; often malignant, they are generally beyond therapeutic intervention.

Epilepsy, affecting young people, is treated effectively with pharmaceutical agents, but not always.

Stroke, tumours, developmental disorders, metabolic disorders, hereditary diseases of the nervous system (Huntington, myopathies), etc, are difficult to accept, notably when they affect children.

Psychic disorders range from simple anxiety and reactive depression to the most serious psychoses, including schizophrenia, bipolar depression, autism, etc…; thus any dysfunction or lesion of the nervous system instantly affects the individual, because of the handicaps it causes, and his capacity for social integration.