research and patient care at The Neuro

MNI researcher named Canada Research Chair

Adrien Peyrache and his lab study the neuronal basis of the brain’s navigation system

MNI researcher Adrien Peyrache has been named Canada Research Chair in systems neuroscience. As a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair, Peyrache’s lab will receive $500,000 over five years, but more than that, Peyrache says it is an honour to be selected among Canada’s top scientists.

“This means a lot because the Canada Research Chairs are selected among all scientific disciplines, not just neuroscience,” said Dr. Peyrache, who joined the Montreal Neurological Institute in 2016. “This CRC increases the visibility of my lab’s research outside the field and abroad, and demonstrates that our work is valued by the Canadian scientific community.”

Peyrache and his team study the neuronal basis of the navigation system, the brain’s GPS. In particular, they aim to unveil the architecture and dynamics of the neuronal circuits supporting the head-direction system (the neuronal compass). To this end, they use high-density electrophysiology allowing the monitoring of large ensembles of neurons in freely moving animals, optogenetics to manipulate neuronal circuits and advanced analysis of neuronal population dynamics.

By recording neuronal activity during exploration and sleep, Peyrache’s lab investigates how sensory inputs are combined with internally organized processes to generate a coherent and reliable sense of direction. Unraveling the relationship between cognitive processes and neuronal dynamics will take us one step further toward understanding the neural basis of brain disorders.

Since arriving at the MNI, Peyrache has been busy setting up his lab and recruiting a team of researchers. Their first papers are in the process of finalization, and they are forming collaborations with other labs at the MNI and McGill.

“Starting a lab from scratch, in a new university and a new country, is daunting,” says Peyrache. “Yet, I now have with me a team of very talented and passionate people, from post-docs to undergrad students. Sometimes, I see them all working in the lab, very dedicated to what they’re doing, and I can’t believe how quickly it has all come together. A year ago, this lab space was totally empty. It was basically me and a laptop. We are now starting to collect data, and the first papers from the lab are now in the pipes.”

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The Neuro is a McGill research and teaching institute; delivering the highest quality patient care, as part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. We are proud to be a Killam Institution, supported by the Killam Trusts.