The research led at UNIC is interdisciplinary, at the interface between Physics and Biology. It uses concepts from statistical physics, dynamic systems and applied mathematics to 1) guide experimental exploration of sensory processing and its plasticity, in thalamic and cortical networks, and 2) identify the synaptic and neuronal mechanisms of low-level perception. The scientific aim is to characterize the complexity of biological systems by making inferences across nested levels of integration, along bottom-up (from microscopic to macroscopic) or top-down (from macroscopic to microscopic) axes.
The different research teams at UNIC focus on three closely linked scientific issues: 1) characterizing the synaptic and cellular mechanisms engaged in the ongoing activation state and sensory evoked neural dynamics in cortical-like structures (during development and adulthood); 2) explaining/modeling the emergence of low-level perception correlates in primary sensory cortical areas; and 3) explaining/modeling the influence of lateral (intrinsic) and top-down (extrinsic) feedback connectivities. Several sensory modalities (vision, touch and haptic sense, audition, electrosensory sense) are studied in different brain structures (brainstem, thalamus, visual, auditory and somatosensory cortices, electrosensory lobe) and species (electric fish, mouse, rat, ferret, cat). Research is based on interdisciplinary approaches, ranging from electrophysiological techniques (intracellular sharp and patch recordings, dynamic clamp in vivo and in vitro, multiple simultaneous single unit recordings and local field potentials), network functional imaging (two photon and voltage sensitive dye imaging, combined with optogenetic techniques) and psychophysical measurements to databases of correlates between structure and function, theoretical neuroscience and computational modeling, as well as statistical physics and large scale simulations.
The work is at the interface between sensory electrophysiology, experimental psychology, cognitive sciences and brain Imaging for its experimental side, and neurogeometry, computational neurosciences, neuroinformatics and physics of complex dynamic systems for the theoretical side.
UNIC is presently composed by 40 researchers and technicians, grouped in 6 scientific teams and 1 administrative/technical team.
Team 1: Visual cognitive sciences (Dir. Y. Frégnac and C. Monier)
Team 2: Somatosensory processing, neuromodulation and plasticity (Dir. D. Shulz)
Team 3: Neurocybernetics of thalamic and cortical networks (Dir. T. Bal)
Team 4: Computational Neurosciences and thalamo-cortical dynamics (Dir. A. Destexhe)
Team 5: Neuroinformatics for data-driven modeling and neuromorphic computing (Dir. A. Davison)
Team 6: Cortical processing of multisensory integration and amodal perception (Dir. B. Bathellier)
The research at UNIC is supported by the CNRS, the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR), Idex grants from Paris-Saclay (NeuroSaclay and I-Code), EC-grants from the Future Emerging Technology (FET) Directorate of the European Brain Community, and the « Human Brain Project » Flagship. UNIC is also in charge of two international antennae, the French node of the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facilities (INCF) (dir : Yves Frégnac and Andrew Davison) and the European Institute of Theoretical Neuroscience (EITN, dir: Alain Destexhe).