Every important event and every significant life episode is encoded in our brain through a concerted dialogue between several cortical structures, including the hippocampus. The hippocampal circuitry takes a central place in the brain cognitive map, making up the memory orchestra. It is composed of two major neuron types: excitatory principal cells and inhibitory neurons.
The inhibitory neurons make local and long-range connections with principal cells but also with each other. Intriguingly, a distinct population of inhibitory cells that express vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) exists in the hippocampus that innervates specifically other inhibitory neurons and, therefore, via selective control over entire hippocampal circuitry, may mediate executive cognitive functions important for learning and memory. These disinhibitory cells are highly heterogeneous, comprising morphologically and molecularly distinct cell types. And it is still unknown how many cell types are positioned at different hippocampal crossroads and what can be their function.
This project aims to shed light on the diversity of the disinhbibitory neurons, their modulation via subcortical projections and their cellular function. Given that imbalanced circuit inhibition is reported in numerous disorders, such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and autism, this research may open up new therapeutic avenues towards prevention and treatment of several devastating pathologies.