This workshop is the second of a series devoted to new technologies in Neurosciences. The objective was to identify new technologies and frontiers which will allow breakthroughs in this field. The challenges for understanding how our brain develops and functions at multiple levels of integration as well as those related to elucidating the mechanisms and treating disorders of the nervous system, particularly neurodegenerative disorders, remain numerous. After a series of technological advances illustrated in July 2008 in Geneva, six new areas were explored at the Warsaw workshop which should help understanding the normal functioning of the brain and better treat its disorders.
A. Konnerth showed spectacular examples of in vivo high resolution imaging using calcium dyes which provides information on the activity of single neurons within complex networks, in physiological and pathological conditions (murine model of Alzheimer’s disease).
J. Rothwell illustrated the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), alone or coupled with imaging, for studying functional connectivity in cognitive neuropsychology. Moreover, repetitive TMS which is associated with long term changes of synaptic effectiveness has many potential applications for improving neurological of psychiatric conditions.
J. Livet provided details on a remarkable tool, brainbow, based on the variable combination of fluorescent proteins expressed in neurons for detailed analysis of the structural organisation of individual neurons. This tool should help deciphering the “connectomics” of brain cells and regions.
M. Jaber discussed the issue of cell therapies in the nervous system demonstrating the potential for both anatomical and functional recovery using embryonic cells in murine models of damaged cortical areas and of Parkinson’s disease. The potential of differentiated neurons derived from neural stem cells (e.g. dopaminergic neurons) was also discussed.
J. Mallet gave a comprehensive overview of the promises and challenges of gene therapy for disorders of the nervous system. Using several examples of preclinical and clinical studies, he illustrated the key question of the choice of vectors (vectorology).
B. Müller-Myhsok illustrated the application of convergent “omics” for elucidating the basis of disorder of the nervous system. An exciting example was given with converging evidence for the implication of the SLC6A15 gene in major depression. However, combining data coming from various sources and various types implying non-linear relationships raises difficult methodological and statistical questions which are still unanswered.
This workshop, combined with the previous one in Geneva, gave a large overview of the major frontiers and technological progresses in the field of neurosciences. They should provide solid scientific ground for new calls for proposals coordinated by funding organizations, partners in the Era-Net NEURON.