Developmental Brain Disorders (DBDs) encompass a wide range of developmental and psychiatric disorders, that are highly heterogeneous and have variable impact on neurodevelopmental functioning. DBDs occur before birth or in early childhood, and are characterised by cognitive impairment and a variety of other symptoms like difficulties in social interaction, language and learning, behavioural challenges and motor dysfunction. DBDs have a prevalence of around 3% and include intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disorders, motor disorder, schizophrenia and epilepsy. Disparate DBDs can share symptoms, phenotypes and molecular pathways, which suggest common pathophysiological mechanisms. This conference «Genetics, environment, signaling & synaptic plasticity in developmental brain disorders: from bench to bedside » was designed to enable discussion between specialists from different fields to find common and complementary areas that will undoubtedly lead to the development of new concepts and interdisciplinary collaborations.
The conference covered the following topics with presentations and discussions by 26 specialists in the various fields:
– Genetic and environmental causes of DBDs.
– Innovative therapies for DBDs, with a particular focus on the difficulties to translate those treatments from the preclinical to the clinical level.
– Normal and pathologic cortical development, having a specific focus on interneurons.
– Common molecular pathways and circuits in the pathophysiology of DBDs.
– Synaptic plasticity in normal and pathologic neurodevelopment.
As a pioneer and leader in research on Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities, the Jerome Lejeune Foundation kindly sponsored the 2022 Best Poster Awards that were presented to the most accomplished poster presentations during the conference. The poster committee which was composed of senior scientists including 5 members of the scientific advisory board of the foundation, evaluated all posters on their design, clarity of the presentation and their scientific content.
Best Poster Award Committee:
Dr. Marie Claude Potier (Chair). ICM. France
Dr. Alberto Bacci. ICM. France
Dr. Yann Hérault. IGBMC. France
Dr. Hervé Moine. IGBMC. France
Dr. Françoise Muscatelli. Inmed. France
Dr. Michèle Studer. iBV. France
Dr. Mara Dierssen. CRG. Spain
Two winners were announced on the last day of the conference and were recognised with award certificates and 500 euros prize money. We asked the awardees to give us an overview of their career and perspectives.
PhD student in the team of Professor U. Valentin Nägerl at the Interdisciplinary Institute for Neuroscience (IINS) in Bordeaux, France
The objective of my PhD work is to investigate the structure-function relationship of neuronal synapses at the nanoscale, which is important for understanding how neurons process and store information and what goes awry in pathologies.
Before coming to France, I obtained a Bachelor degree in Biology (University of Urbino, Italy) and Master degree in Neuroscience at the University of Trieste (Italy) joint Master course with International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA). During my master project at SISSA, I studied the effects of nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes, on neuronal functions using electrophysiological techniques. There, I developed a keen interest in synaptic spines, very small structure that cannot be resolved by conventional microscopes. Therefore, after completed my master study, I came to France and I had the opportunity to study my favourite neuronal structures and learn more about microscopy, joining the “synaptic plasticity and super-resolution microscopy” group (Nägerl team) for an internship. During this time, I was introduced to cutting-edge experimental and theoretical approaches for Neurobiology research that increased my motivation to pursue graduate studies. Then, I started my PhD as a part of the EUR light graduate program of the University of Bordeaux, where currently I am in my third year of PhD.
I enjoy conducting basic science research and thinking up experiments to answer the fundamental questions about the brain. Therefore, my long-term goal is to pursue a career in academic research. As a postdoc, I plan to continue to study the computational role of dendritic spines in normal and pathological brain. Besides my passion for science, I love visiting art and history museums, practicing yoga and having long walks and hikes in the nature.
Postdoctoral scientists in the team of Professor Yuri Bozzi at the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, Trento University in Trento, Italy
My interest in neuroscience research started during my bachelor’s studies, when I realized that the study of brain represents a major challenge for the future of humanity and a priority in order to understand mental illness. To pursue my career goal of being an independent neuroscientist, after my bachelor, I obtained my master degree in experimental psychology, which guided my primary research interest in the field experience-dependent plasticity in health and disease. Subsequently, I joined an international Ph.D. program in Neuroscience under the supervision of prof. Tommaso Pizzorusso. Here I was trained with in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology, working on mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders. Later, I joined the Hensch-Fagiolini lab (Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical school) for an 8 months internship to assess the effectiveness of NMDA-receptors targeting compounds as potential therapeutic drugs for Rett syndrome.
The experience at Harvard, redirected my research interest towards biological psychiatry. I joined Dr. Sabina Berretta’s lab in October 2016 for my postdoctoral training studying the interplay between glia, extracellular matrix and neurons in the context of synaptic plasticity and psychiatric disorders. Then I did a brief training at the University of Mississippi Medical Center to learn new technical approaches to study of dendritic spines as a measure for memory consolidation. Finally, in July 2021, I came back to Italy and re-joined prof. Yuri Bozzi lab at the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences. Here I will resume the work I started in 2016, investigating the role of somatosensory alteration as an endophenotype of neurodevelopmental disorders.