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Neural circuit assembly and brain disorders

Beatriz Rico

Beatriz Rico

Professor of Developmental Neurobiology

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The function of neural networks in the cerebral cortex relies on the interaction between excitatory and inhibitory neurons, but the mechanisms controlling their wiring into specific circuits remain largely unknown. Unravelling the mechanisms underlying the formation of neuronal networks in the cortex is not only a major scientific challenge, but also has important implications in mental health. Increasing evidences suggest that there is a malfunction of inhibitory neurons in many neurodevelopmental disorders, and therefore understanding how cortical networks assemble during development will help to produce new treatments for these devastating disorders.

Our goal in the lab is to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms controlling the development and maturation of neural networks in health and disease. In the context of the MRC Centre, we have established collaborations with our clinician colleagues to engineer animal models for relevant genes linked to autism, epilepsy and schizophrenia to investigate the excitatory/inhibitory in specific cortical circuits. This will allow us to identify new possible targets for the development of alternative pharmacological therapies.

Selected publications

Exposito-Alonso D, Osório C, Bernard C, Pascual-García S, Del Pino I, Marín O, Rico B (2020) Subcellular sorting of neuregulins controls the assembly of excitatory-inhibitory cortical circuits. Elife 9

Favuzzi E, Deogracias R, Marques-Smith A, Maeso P, Jezequel J, Exposito-Alonso D, Balia M, Kroon T, Hinojosa AJ, F Maraver E, Rico B (2019) Distinct molecular programs regulate synapse specificity in cortical inhibitory circuits. Science 363: 413-417

Favuzzi E, Marques-Smith A, Deogracias R, Winterflood CM, Sánchez-Aguilera A, Mantoan L, Maeso P, Fernandes C, Ewers H, Rico B (2017) Activity-Dependent Gating of Parvalbumin Interneuron Function by the Perineuronal Net Protein Brevican. Neuron 95: 639-655.e10

Del Pino I, Brotons-Mas JR, Marques-Smith A, Marighetto A, Frick A, Marín O, Rico B (2017) Abnormal wiring of CCK+ basket cells disrupts spatial information coding. Nat Neurosci 20: 784-792