Research Groups

  • Behavioral Endocrinology - Maria Bernardete Cordeiro de Sousa

    • The Laboratory of Behavioral Endocrinology at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte was created in 1996 to study the interactions between hormones and behavior. Previously we were involved in the study of reproductive strategies in common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) a small Neotropical primate native from this geographical region of Brazil. The studies were developed in both captive and free-ranging animals and found sex biased behavioral expression as well as dimorphic cortisol secretion. We also characterize some aspects of the chronobiology of social behaviors in reproductive pairs and litters and prolactin participation in paternal behavior. Currently we are involved with two main lines of interest in hormones and behavior interactions:

      (i) In common marmosets we remain investigating aspects of sex differences in stress response system in the perspective of extended the use of this experimental model in mental disorders investigation as well as the association between hormones and cognition, with focus on brain asymmetry.

      (ii) In humans we are investigating the relationship between hormones and cognition, and the profile of biological markers (hormonal, immunological and/or autonomic) present in mental (post-traumatic stress disorder- PTSD) and pain chronic syndrome (fibromyalgia).

  • Behavioral Neurophysiology - Diego Andrés Laplagne

    • Nervous systems evolved as mediators of a sensory-motor loop, orchestrating behavioral outputs as appropriate responses to the environmental conditions read by the senses. A fundamental goal of neuroscience is, thus, to understand how brain circuits work to sustain perception and organize behavior. Much progress has been made by recording brain activity in model animals performing structured and reproducible sensory-motor tasks. This approach allows the experimenter to perform statistical analysis of neuronal correlates under well-controlled conditions. This, however, comes at a cost, as both stimuli and behavior are restricted and forced out of the natural range under which brain function evolved. Modern recording and analysis techniques are driving a new wave of ethology, allowing the study of natural behaviors in freely moving animals under strict quantitative analysis. Our lab aims at contributing to the understanding of mammalian brain function by developing new approaches for the rigorous study of such behaviors together with distributed recordings of neuronal activity.

      We are studying in this way vocal communication with rats as model animals. Rats produce vocalizations that span the frequency range from the sonic to the ultrasonic. Above...

  • BioMe - Sandro Souza

    • BioME is a bioinformatics initiative created in 2016 in the UFRN, Natal - Brazil. However, the history of BioME is directly linked to UFRN's efforts to recruit important leaders with expertise in the field of Bioinformatics and training of personnel; in the establishment of the Digital Metropolis Institute (IMD) and its innovative model, and the creation of the Postgraduate Program in Bioinformatics.

      In 2011, the establishment of the Brain Institute and the IMD, motivated the recruitment of group leaders working at the interface of computer and life sciences. Since then, IMD has been acting on the frontier of basic research and innovation, promoting a culture of entrepreneurship, as well as research and technological innovation. In 2012, Prof. Sandro José de Souza, one of the pioneers of the area in Brazil and with a history of success in training human resources in Bioinformatics, was recruited by the Brain Institute. More recently, four other bioinformaticians were recruited by UFRN. This group of newcomers joined other professors already established at UFRN, who are exponents in their fields.

      The approval of the "Cancer Systemic Biology" project (BSC) under CAPES’ Computational Biology call (051/2013) also contributed to define...

  • Computational Neurophysiology - Adriano Tort

    • Despite enormous advances in our knowledge about the brain, it remains largely unknown how exactly networks of brain cells give rise to cognitive functions such as learning, memory, reasoning, planning and decision making. Our lab is generally interested in understanding the neuronal correlates of several cognitive processes through computational techniques for analyzing and modeling electrophysiological signals. One primary line of research in our lab focuses on studying brain oscillations and their interaction, a phenomenon known as cross-frequency coupling, which has recently been shown to play a role in cognitive functioning. Other lines of research in our lab include the development and application of computational tools for identifying cell assemblies and their dynamics, and the elaboration of computational models to understand memory consolidation, re-consolidation and extinction.

  • Environmental Neural Development lab - Eduardo Bouth Sequerra

    • Our group studies how the central nervous system forms. We study phenomena, at the tissue, cell and molecular levels that take a group of cells in the embryo to organize into a complex brain and spinal cord. It also interests us to understand how the environment shapes the final product and generate diseases.

  • Functional Neuroimaging - Dráulio Araújo

    • The Functional Neuroimaging Lab (NeuroImago) was established in 2003 and is focused on the application of non-invasive tools to investigate questions related to the field of cognitive and clinical neurosciences. For now, we have devoted special interest to Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG).

      Currently, the lab is installed in Hospital Universitário Onofre Lopes (HUOL) of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) and Brain Institute.

  • Hearing and neuronal activity lab - Emelie Katarina Svahn Leão

    • Our lab implements genetic tools for studying and modulating neuronal activity. We use opto- and chemogenetic strategies together with cre-lox mice strains and/or viral constructs to target and control unique cell populations of the auditory system. We use in vitro electrophysiology (whole-cell patch clamp) that give explicit information on ion currents related to altered neuronal activity. This data is complimentary to in vivo models of intact systems. Unit recordings using acute and chronic multichannel electrodes provide new insight to neuronal activity, both sensory driven and spontaneous. Using clustering algorithms to separate units into plausible cell types we can reach new levels of understanding of regulation of neuronal activity of unique cell populations, and how alterations to neuronal activity affect circuit output. We also record auditory event-related potentials to correlate sensory gating to regulation of neuronal activity. For tinnitus research we implement auditory brainstem responses to know hearing threshold of mice, noise-overexposure to induce tinnitus without hearing loss, and we use Gap prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle tests to evaluate tinnitus perception in mice.

  • Memory Research - Martin Cammarota

    • Research Lines:

      1. Neurochemistry of Memory

      2. Molecular Biology of Memory

      3. Role of AII receptors on TH regulation and catecholamine synthesis

      4. Participation of CaMKII on the induction and maintenance of hippocampal LTP

      5. Neurobiology of the formation, expression and extinction of memories

      6. Use of stem cells for the treatment of cognitive deficits caused by neurodegenerative diseases

      7. Neurochemistry, neurophysiology and neuropharmacology of memory formation and expression

  • Memory, Sleep and Dreams - Sidarta Ribeiro

    • This lab investigates the molecular, cellular, circuit-level and psychological mechanisms responsible for the cognitive role of sleep. Explicit memories, i.e. memories of places, things and events involve two different brain portions: while the hippocampus acts as a short-term buffer, memories eventually move to the cerebral cortex. Investigating rats with multielectrode neuronal recordings and in situ hybridization for plasticity-related immediate-early genes, it was found that memories of novel objects fade within minutes in the hippocampus, but persist reverberating in the cortex during sleep many hours after the end of object exploration. The results indicate that the two phases of sleep cooperate to promote the propagation of memories from their entry point (hippocampus) to their final destination (cortex). The non-dreaming phase of sleep (slow-wave sleep, SWS) reverberates and amplifies recently acquired changes in selected synaptic circuits. The dreaming phase of sleep (rapid-eye-movement sleep, REM) switches on the cortical expression of genes related to memory stabilization and propagation. The results suggest that novel experience is followed by multiple waves of cortical plasticity as sleep cycles recur. As a consequence, memories become more dependent on cortex than hippocampus as sleep recurs, migrating from their original...

  • Neural Circuit Plasticity - Rodrigo Neves Romcy Pereira

    • Our laboratory investigates the function and mechanisms of synaptic plasticity in cortico-limbic circuits required for the coordination of cognitive, emotional and social behaviors. Neurons located in the prefrontal cortex, ventral hippocampus, thalamus and basal forebrain make up networks involved to accomplish these behaviors. Evidence indicates that dysfunctions in these circuits underlie the appearance of abnormal behaviors observed in neurological and psychiatric disorders such as epilepsy and autism. Our lab is particularly interested in understanding how oscillatory coupling between the hipocampus and prefrontal cortex correlates to synaptic plasticity mechanisms such as LTP and LTD and how they are modulated by the local cortical GABAergic neurons. Additional focus of our lab is to investigate (1) how epileptic circuits increase the vulnerability of individuals to develop psychiatric symptoms and (2) which are the mechanisms by which neural networks in autism are affected. In order to address these questions, we use electrophysiological recordings in animal models of epilepsy and autism and evaluate neuronal activity in cortical and subcortical areas such as the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, amygdala and thalamus. We analyze oscillations between different brain areas and correlate local field potentials, multi-unit activity and synaptic...