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Department of Neurophysiology , Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology

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Department of Neurophysiology of the Nencki Institute

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The Department was founded (in 1946) and headed from the begining by Jerzy Konorski, from 1973 to 2001 by Bogusław Zernicki and since 2002 by Andrzej Wróbel. The major topics of current research in the Department still encompass anatomical/functional connectivity, the foundations of behavior and plasticity of the nervous system including its developmental, adult and recovery aspects. These research topics are based on the long tradition of behavioral experiments as well as new neurochemical, histological, electrophysiological, neuroinformatic and modeling methods.

At present, the Department consists of twelve laboratories that focus on various aspects of brain function starting from its molecular and cellular bases up to the integrative mechanisms of neuronal networks and animal and human behavior (

Sensory systems and perception are studied on five models including the auditory system of the dog (with research focused on anatomical connectivity and functional role of the cortical areas); the visual system of the cat and the somatosensory system of the rat (devoted to basic functional physiology as well as attentional mechanisms underlying perception); the gustatory system of the cat (with analysis of early sensory deprivation), and finally, the human visual system (devoted to analysis of late components of event-related potentials). For more details on these research lines headed by Hanna Kosmal, Andrzej Wróbel and Andrzej Michalski look in Laboratories.

Systems of motor control are investigated in different aspects on the rat's model including mechanisms of neural control of locomotion, recovery of motor functions after central and peripheral injuries in young and adult animals, involvement of neurotrophins and cell adhesion molecules in neurodegeneration, strategies for stimulation of endogenous pools of regenerative proteins and plasticity processes in the neuromuscular system. (Heads of the laboratories: Urszula Sławińska and Julita Czarkowska-Bauch).

Emotion and memory are studied with the use of different behavioral paradigms in rats and dogs. The investigations on mechanisms of memory are devoted to strategies of learning, behavioral mechanisms of defensive and alimentary conditioning, mechanisms of spatial, recognition and emotional memory, as well as their neuronal substrates. Neurophysiological and neurochemical research on the emotional system focuses on mechanisms of aggression, fear and social behavior as well as limbic-motor interactions. On the molecular and cellular levels, studies concern the functional aspects of basal forebrain cholinergic system in the adult and aging brain and beta-amyloid induced toxicity in Alzheimer Disease. (Heads of the laboratories: Tomasz Werka, Stefan Kasicki, Andrzej Michalski and Danek Elbaum).

Neuropsychological approach is devoted to investigations on hemispheric asymmetry in cognitive and emotional functions; sex-related differences in functional brain organization; as well as mechanisms of speech, left-handedness and dyslexia. Close cooperation with human clinics allow for studies on perceptual, memory and attention deficits after brain damage in epileptic and Parkinsonian patients, subjects with cochlear implants and children with speech disorders. The mutual projects undertaken with clinical partners are important for setting our research in applied science. (Heads of the laboratories: Anna Grabowska, Elżbieta Szeląg and Remigiusz Tarnecki).

Finally the laboratory of ethology headed by Ewa J. Godzińska is devoted to ethopharmacological and sociobiological investigations on ants.

Despite the wide area of studied subjects, two common topics integrate research in the Department: intrinsic mechanisms of behavioral neurophysiology and plasticity of the nervous system. The traditional Wednesday seminars allow for the exchange of new ideas and hot discoveries between the research groups. These seminars also give the opportunity to discuss the lectures delivered by eminent visitors from all over the world on the occasion of their visits in the Department. The thematic seminars on ethology, neuroinformatics and psychophysiology as well as regular Journal Clubs are meant to keep track of the modern trends in neuroscience and are attended by interested scientists from different laboratories and cooperating academic institutions. In order to share the expensive facilities for newly implemented techniques, the specialized departmental laboratories are organized for use of all the groups. Already at work are histology, in vitro slice electrophysiology and HPLC laboratories. Modern behavioral and neuroinformatic setups equipped with digital recording and analyzing facilities are currently under organization.

Dynamic cooperations with leading institutions abroad allow for the integration of new techniques, enriching our experimental capabilities. During last thirty years five international conferences on "Brain and behavior" have been organized by the Department staff. With the integrated editorial effort of the staff, the Department continues to publish the ICI indexed international journal "Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis".