Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory

Strategic objectives

  • European Research Council (ERC) RememberEx project:
  • To elucidate the electrophysiological mechanisms underlying human amygdala-hippocampal-cortical coupling, which leads to improved recall of salient stimuli.
  • To extend the role of the human hippocampus in detecting unpredictable stimuli, to define its function in orchestrating cortical dynamics in unpredictable environments.
  • To uncover the neural dynamics of the response of the human mesolimbic dopaminergic system to salient stimuli, and to understand how these relate to memory.

Lines of research

  • Using magnetic resonance imaging, study of changes in brain anatomy in patients with dementia at the Queen Sofia Foundation Alzheimer Centre and their relationship with observable post-mortem histopathology.
  • Prediction of conversion to MCI: use of machine learning techniques to develop an algorithm capable of predicting which cognitively normal subjects will develop MCI within one year based on neuroimaging and neuropsychological variables.
  • White matter microstructural differences in future MCI patients: use of diffusion imaging to investigate white matter differences between controls and subjects who will develop MCI.
  • Cross-sectional and longitudinal differences in hippocampal volume between APOE ε4 carriers and non-carriers: study of cognitive and volumetric changes, in particular of the hippocampus, between APOE ε3/ε4 and APOE ε3/ε3 genotypes, and their interaction with age.
  • We studied a population of people over 80 years old with an episodic memory 30 years younger. This exceptional population is referred to as superagers. Our aim is to find out what makes superagers special. And for that we characterise your brain with neuroimaging techniques and study your lifestyle and medical history. The ultimate goal is to use this information to slow or prevent memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients.
  • To understand the neurocognitive bases of emotional memory. To analyse the response to emotional stimuli of neuronal groups using electrodes implanted in the brain – for clinical reasons only – in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy disorders. Such responses are associated with the encoding and recall of negative images. Studies of brain oscillations and connectivity between brain areas such as the amygdala and hippocampus may help to understand the fundamental mechanisms of encoding and recovery from negative events. The findings may also have a particular impact on the pathophysiology of diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Study of different factors that modulate memory. In particular, how surprise, uncertainty, and high emotional content affect the formation of our memories and their recall. This is done using behavioural tasks in healthy participants and functional magnetic resonance imaging, as well as working with data from electrophysiology data from patients to study the role of the hippocampus and the rest of the cortex in these processes.
  • The study of how unexpected events improve our memory and what neurobiological mechanisms underlie this process. Investigation of hippocampal dynamics and cortico-hippocampal interactions during the processes of anticipation of stimulus presentation, and also how uncertainty and surprise influence these processes. Various cognitive tasks are used in healthy participants (behavioural and fMRI) and in patients (with intracranial electrodes and electrophysiology).
  • Intracranial electrophysiology of emotional memory retrieval: The characteristics of Sharp Wave Ripples (SWRs) in both the human hippocampus and amygdala, as well as the relationship between them and other intracranial electrophysiological processes, are analysed in order to determine the role of SWRs in the process of emotional memory retrieval.
  • Analysis of the effects of deep brain stimulation of the nucleus accumbens on memory in patients suffering from treatment-resistant obsessive-compulsive disorder. In particular, visual, spatial, and verbal memory is studied. Deep electrodes are located post-surgery to anatomically map the cognitive effects of stimulation. Neurophysiological effects are also investigated using cranial and intracranial electroencephalography.

Other members of the group

  • Marcos Raphael Benítez Aldás
  • Marta Casales Santa
  • Manuela Costa
  • Dustin Fetterhoff
  • Darya Rivka Frank
  • Marta Garo Pascual
  • Robin Hellerstedt
  • Diana Ortega Cruz
  • Alba Peris-Yague
  • Svenja Treu