We are particularly interested in the molecular and cellular basis of diverse cognitive conditions. Specifically, our goal is to identify molecular and synaptic mechanisms underlying learning and memory processes, cognitive malfunction and cognitive enhancement. The elucidation of these mechanisms facilitates the nomination of new therapeutic targets to a variety of cognitive disorders. Our experience in different scientific disciplines (medicine, animal behavior, electrophysiology, molecular biology, morphology) allows us to use the multidisciplinary approach that is necessary in the modern neuroscience research.
- Shira Knafo was one of the honorees at the National Research Council's Annual tribute to its scientists (2017)
- New paper in Trends in Neuroscience (2017)
- New TV program on our work (2016)
- New paper in Nature Neuroscience (2016)
- Research highlights on our papers
- New paper in Hippocampus (2016)
- New paper in Neurobiology of Aging (2016)
- The new book about cognitive enhancement (2015)
- Our lecture at the FENS meeting (2014)
- The approaches we use in the lab
- Our recent publications
- The lab members
Our New Trends in Neuroscience Paper:
Phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome ten (PTEN) was recently revealed to be a synaptic player during plasticity events in addition to its well-established role as a general controlling factor in cell proliferation and neuronal growth during development. Alterations of these direct actions of PTEN at synapses may lead to synaptic dysfunction with behavioral and cognitive consequences. A recent paradigmatic example of this situation, Alzheimer's disease (AD), is associated with excessive recruitment of PTEN into synapses leading to pathological synaptic depression. By contrast, some forms of autism are characterized by failure to weaken synaptic connections, which may be related to insufficient PTEN signaling. Understanding the modulation of synaptic function by PTEN in these pathologies may contribute to the development of new therapies.
Phosphatase and Tensin Homolog Deleted on Chromosome Ten (PTEN)-Mediated Synaptic Dysfunction in Alzheimer's Disease and Autism. (A) The presence of amyloid β induces exaggerated synaptic recruitment of PTEN. The triggering mechanism remains unknown but requires NMDA receptor activation and relies on PDZ-dependent interactions, similar to physiological long-term depression (LTD). The sustained recruitment of PTEN at the postsynaptic membrane leads to excessive removal of AMPA receptors, skewing synaptic plasticity towards depression and producing chronic synaptic weakening. (B) In some forms of autism, PTEN loss of function produces excessive neuronal proliferation and synaptic connectivity during development. In addition, these synapses will fail to be appropriately depressed during plasticity events because of insufficient (or lack of) PTEN activity. This will result in synaptic hyperactivity, which will eventually exacerbate the hyperconnectivity and hyperexcitability phenotypes that started during brain development.
Our New Nature Neuroscience Paper:
Dyshomeostasis of amyloid-β peptide (Aβ) is responsible for synaptic malfunctions leading to cognitive deficits ranging from mild impairment to full-blown dementia in Alzheimer's disease. Aβ appears to skew synaptic plasticity events toward depression. We found that inhibition of PTEN, a lipid phosphatase that is essential to long-term depression, rescued normal synaptic function and cognition in cellular and animal models of Alzheimer's disease. Conversely, transgenic mice that overexpressed PTEN displayed synaptic depression that mimicked and occluded Aβ-induced depression. Mechanistically, Aβ triggers a PDZ-dependent recruitment of PTEN into the postsynaptic compartment. Using a PTEN knock-in mouse lacking the PDZ motif, and a cell-permeable interfering peptide, we found that this mechanism is crucial for Aβ-induced synaptic toxicity and cognitive dysfunction. Our results provide fundamental information on the molecular mechanisms of Aβ-induced synaptic malfunction and may offer new mechanism-based therapeutic targets to counteract downstream Aβ signaling.
This new book contains a vast amount of information regarding traditional and modern strategies aimed at enhancing cognitive function, both in animals and humans. The editors made an effort to make this book accessible to the general public, although some of the chapters may be more scientifically orientated than others. Nevertheless, the general goal of this book is to bring together the bulk of information available in this field, in the hope that this will eventually help scientists to develop new, more efficient approaches to treat cognitive impairment.