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TEAM “Structural dynamics of networks”


CNS development and plasticity
Main domain : Cellular & molecular neurosciences

Nicolas RENIER’s plans to develop and use cutting-edge 3D whole brain imaging and genetic tools aimed at elucidating how neuronal networks in the adult brain can be rewired at a large scale.
The team will :
  • Investigate the molecular mechanisms of axon and branch dynamics in the adult brain
  • Gain new information on neuro-vascular interaction during plastic events
  • Develop correlative 3D imaging of live calcium imaging in the behaving animal with whole brain mapping of neuronal markers and connectivity
  • Determine the role of structural plasticity to support transitions in behavior in the mouse.


In the adult brain, connections between neurons are mostly stable. However, we are still able to learn or adapt to changes in our environment or physiological states. Learning and adaptation in the adult brain are thought to be mainly driven at the microscopic scale by changes in synaptic strength or recycling of the synapses. However, synaptic plasticity can only modulate communications between neurons whose branches are spatially close.

It is known that, to a limited extend, mature neurons can add or remove branches to their existing tree. This is an important notion, as this could dramatically expand the number of potentiel partners a neuron could talk to in the network. It could also condition the ability of certain neurons to repair the network after lesions.

Very little is known on the molecular control and the functional implication of long-term and large scale neuronal branch dynamics in the adult brain.

It is challenging to study this phenomenon, as it likely happens in a few neurons in the dense meshwork of the brain. To enhance our capabilities to document axon remodeling in the adult brain, we design assays based on mouse genetics and cutting-edge imaging techniques.

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Team members