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Cortical Interneurons in Health and Disease


This June, the 2015 EMBO workshop on “Cortical Interneurons in Health and Disease” brought together world-class scholars to discuss the latest research advances on the biology of cortical interneurons. Organized by Professor Oscar Marin, Director of the MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology, this third edition of the workshop focused on the most recent findings on the origins of cortical interneuron diversity, the regulation of their metabolism, as well as their role in cortical operations and function in brain rhythms.

Complex brain circuitries have evolved as networks of excitatory and inhibitory neurons. In the cerebral cortex, for example, neural assemblies consist of excitatory pyramidal cells and inhibitory interneurons. Excitatory cells constitute approximately 80% of cortical neurons and they specialise in transmitting information between different cortical regions and to other regions of the brain. Interneurons comprise a highly heterogeneous group of neurons that provide inhibitory inputs and shape different forms of synchronised oscillations. Although a minority population within the brain, interneurons are now recognized as essential elements in cortical function, playing major roles in both normal brain functioning and disease.

Interneurons, of all the cells within the forebrain, are the most diverse in terms of morphology, connectivity and physiological properties. Progress in this field is accelerating, primarily driven by the development of new technologies and experimental approaches, such as those that now allow visualization of specific classes of interneurons. Throughout the four days of the workshop, around 80 attendants with diverse backgrounds, from developmental neurobiology to systems neuroscience, listened to and discussed the latest data and very exciting findings on the development and function of interneurons. In addition to the presentations, there were also two poster sessions in which the participants presented their most recent work. At the end of these intense and highly interactive four days, the workshop concluded with presentations on the latest findings and efforts to translate what we have learned on interneuron biology into effective treatments for neurocognitive disorders such as epilepsy, autism and schizophrenia.

The 2015 EMBO Workshop on Cortical Interneurons in Health and Disease was organized by Oscar Marín (King’s College London), together with Stewart Anderson (Weill Cornell Medical College, USA), David Lewis (University of Pittsburgh, USA), Rosa Cossart (INMED Marseille, France) and Hannah Monyer (Heidelberg University and DKFZ, Germany), and with the administrative support of Stefania Boscolo. The workshop was sponsored by EMBO, IBRO, Zeiss, LaVisionBiotec, the Spanish Society for Neuroscience and Lilly.