Justine Cléry, PhD, is a new neuroscientist at The Neuro. Her research aims to better understand how sensory information and social cognition are encoded in the brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in awake non-human primate models.
She is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at McGill University, member of the Azrieli Centre for Autism Research (ACAR) and head of the Sensory and Social Brain Mechanisms Lab at The Neuro.
What sparked your interest in working in the field of neurodevelopmental research?
Social cognition plays an important role in our everyday lives. After working in basic research for several years, I was eager to better understand the brain mechanisms linked to neurodevelopmental conditions.
On a more personal level, the son of my godmother was diagnosed with profound autism early in childhood, and is still very dependent on his family in adult life. I hope that my work helps to bring some clarity to the many ways in which social communication and interactions are present in autism.
What is your research goal?
The development of sensory and social mechanisms in the brain is not yet fully understood. While we have data on behaviour, it is less clear how these functions are implemented in the brain and how they are established across our lives.
My research goal is to identify and understand how the mechanisms involved in sensory processing and social cognition evolve across a person's lifetime to help find and refine possible interventions that may improve quality of life for autistic people and their families.
I am driven to determine the best window during early life where we can apply these interventions. I conduct fMRI and behavioural tasks in marmosets across their lives, in both control and ASD models. I compare the functional network between these models to determine how they evolve with age and understand how they may be linked to the genes targeted in autism.
What motivates your work?
I am motivated to contribute to advancing science through open collaboration and teamwork.
This way, we can help to unravel the mystery of the brain, to make science more transparent and accessible, and ultimately to improve people's daily lives.
What excites you about being a member of ACAR at The Neuro?
ACAR is a great platform to foster strong collaborations.
As a member of ACAR at The Neuro, I take part of translational studies so that my fundamental research can be applied clinically to help patients, and conversely, so that clinical data can help refine and guide our research protocols and questions.