Myrto Denaxa Research Group


…… My investigations showed that the functional superiority of the human brain is intimately bound up with the prodigious abundance and unusual wealth of forms of the so-called neurons with short axon … …

—S. Ramón y Cajal, Recuerdos de mi vida, 1917


In the mammalian cortex, interneurons are a small, extremely diverse group of non-pyramidal GABA-expressing cells, which traditionally have been considered to project locally, hence the term short axon cells. Although pyramidal neurons have been always considered the backbone of the cortex and therefore dominated the interest of neuroscientists, a century ago, Ramòn y Cajal has predicted that interneurons, or as he called them, the butterflies of the soul, are responsible for refining cortical processing. Recent studies have verified Ramòn’s prediction and shown that depending on which interneuron type participates in each network, brain activity can be affected in unique and multiple ways.

How this astonishing wealth of interneuron subtypes is generated remains a big challenge for neuroscientists. We are interested in unravelling how different interneuron subtypes initiate unique gene programs and how these programs are modulated in response to environmental input. We wish not only to define the key steps in the normal process of interneuron maturation, but additionally how perturbing this process results in brain dysfunction. We anticipate that our work will provide insight into the contribution of unique interneuron classes to specific diseases associated with deficits in the GABAergic system, such as Schizophrenia, Intellectual Disability, Autism Spectrum Disorders and Epilepsy. Our research focuses on:

• Mechanism controlling the maturation of distinct interneuron populations.

• Generating and studying animal models for Interneuropathies.