Adrien Peyrache, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at McGill University. Since 2016, he's directed the Peyrache Lab at The Neuro, wherein he and his team study the cognitive processes that humans use to navigate in their environment.
Earlier this year, Peyrache joined the Azrieli Centre for Autism Research (ACAR). As a McGill-affiliated research member, he has committed to advancing discovery and mentoring future leaders in the science of neurodevelopment.
What sparked your interest in research related to neurodevelopmental conditions, including autism?
I remember reading a book by the autistic author Donna Williams as a teenager. It struck me. Her story opened my eyes to what autism is, the struggle to communicate with others, the overwhelming emotions.
As I embarked on an academic journey in neuroscience, I became fascinated by fundamental questions regarding memory and sleep. The only neurological disorder I was interested in was epilepsy as, in my opinion, this was the only disease with appropriate animal models.
A few years after I started my lab, a postdoc, Dr. Adrian Duszkiewicz, convinced me to submit a seed grant for a collaboration between McGill and the University of Edinburgh, in which we aimed to explore how the spatial navigation system developed in Fragile X (FMR1-KO) rat models. What we saw in the data immediately sparkled our interest. In many regards, the system was developing faster and better in the transgenic rat.
We then obtained a grant from the Simons Foundation to continue this work, which is still ongoing.
To me, studying autism is a unique opportunity to understand how the brain develops, in a typical or divergent manner.
What are your research goals?
My goal is to establish the head-direction system, that is the brain's compass, as a model of choice to study autism in animal models.
Not only it is a fascinating system that allows to easily bridge the gap between neuronal coding and naturalistic behavior, it also shows highly organized activity during sleep - and sleep disorder is another aspect of autism that is too often overlooked.
What motivates your work?
Curiosity and discovery. Nothing else!
Why become an ACAR member?
I think it is essential for me to join the vibrant community here at McGill and in Quebec in general.
As a new investigator in autism, I still have a lot to learn from all my colleagues here. This will also open opportunities for future collaborations.
More on ACAR Research Members
ACAR members are established researchers based at The Neuro or any McGill University institution or department whose research programs include funded projects with a significant focus on neurodevelopment or neurodevelopmental conditions.
"ACAR's strength comes from the diversity of clinical and research expertise," says Guy Rouleau, Director of The Neuro and of ACAR. "Members work together to advance our understanding of autism and improve outcomes for our patients and the broader autism community."