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Département de biologie
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UE Brain : development, plasticity and cognition

Course supervisors: Anne Didier and Frédéric Moret

6 ECTS credits, 50 hrs

Pierre Boulinguez
Valérie Castellani
Anne Didier
Julien Falk
Frédéric Moret
Marion Richard

In vertebrates, the brain is certainly the organ whose workings are the most widely unknown. The analysis of the biological mechanisms that make up the brain is a very difficult task, raising a number of problems which are not only methodological but also epistemological and even ethical. Nevertheless, it is an exhilarating goal that will certainly be at the heart of biological research in the 21st century. One the unique characteristics of the brain is its capacity for self-organization, not only along the course of its development, during which it progressively acquires its optimal functional capacities, but all throughout its life as well, incarnating more than any other organ the subject’s individual path—what it has learned, its feelings, its decline … and its death. In fact, the conservation in higher mammals of numerous juvenile characteristics in their adult stage indicates that the developmental process, complex and decisive for the whole of the brain’s functions, is never fully achieved. Understanding the biological mechanisms that control the development of neural networks, the establishment of their connectivity, the adaptive plasticity of neurons and neuron groups, the emergence of mental functions and their possible dysfunction as the result of a neurological or psychological pathology is of major interest.


The objectives of this course are to highlight the achievements of molecular and cellular biology in the neurobiology of development and in neurophysiology, to illustrate the most promising experimental approaches in the perspective of a better understanding of mental functions and their pathologies, and to give a glimpse of the recent advances in the sciences studying the brain where biology has a major, though not exclusive, role.

The labs will focus on analyses and syntheses of scientific articles which will be presented and discussed by the students, allowing an understanding of the methods and concepts in the neurobiology of development.

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