Université Victor Segalen, Synaptic Plasticity and Superresolution Microscopy Group, Institute for Interdisciplinary Neuroscience, Bordeaux, France
The biology of synapses is an extremely productive and interdisciplinary scientific endeavor, harboring central questions of cell biology and neuroscience. Synapses are physical sites of intercellular contact that transmit and transform information in a very rapid and flexible way, playing a pivotal role for learning and memory formation as well as neurological diseases of the mammalian brain.
Since synapses are tiny and densely packed in light-scattering brain tissue, understanding their dynamic behavior in mechanistic terms under physiological conditions is a serious experimental challenge.
Fortunately, recent technological innovations, particularly in labeling and live-cell imaging techniques, are helping to break new ground. The advent of fluorescence microscopy beyond the diffraction limit has opened up huge experimental opportunities to directly image and resolve key physiological signaling events inside single synapses in intact brain tissue, a possibility which was considered a pipedream until recently.
The research group is invested in harnessing these exciting technological developments to study synapses in their natural habitat and under realistic conditions, aiming to better understand higher brain function and disorders in terms of the underlying synaptic mechanisms.
To this end, the researchers are applying novel superresolution microscopy approaches (such as STED microscopy), giving them a more complete and refined view of the dynamic behavior and plasticity of neuronal synapses and their interactions with glia inliving brain slices. This approach is complemented by a combination of 2-photon imaging & photoactivation and patch-clamp electrophysiology.