Department of Neurophysiology in 2013
The Department was founded in 1946 by Jerzy Konorski. Its major research is anatomical and functional connectivity of the developing and mature central nervous system in health and disease. The Department consists of eleven research groups, each focusing on a different neuroscience theme.
Sensory systems (visual system of the cat and somatosensory system of the rat) are investigated by the groups led by Prof. Waleszczyk and Prof. Wróbel and are devoted to basic functional physiology, as well as contextual mechanisms influencing perception. Additionally, these groups study the codes for movement perception in the extrageniculate visual pathway.
Regeneration and plasticity in rats is investigated by four groups. Neurodegeneration in rodent models of nerve injury and therapeutic intervention using pharmacology, nerve grafts, locomotor training, neurotrophin signaling and AAV-mediated gene transfer are studied by the groups led by Prof. Czarkowska-Bauch and Prof. Sławińska. Morphological changes in neural plasticity including extracellular proteolysis and glial contributions are investigated by Prof. Wilczyński’s group. Molecular and in vivo studies on the function of the basal forebrain cholinergic system and beta-amyloid-induced toxicity in Alzheimer’s disease is investigated by Prof. Niewiadomska’s group.
Emotion and memory in rats are investigated by two groups. The role of the limbic structures in emotion and social behavior, as well as the influence of psychotomimetic compounds on limbic activity are investigated by the groups led by Prof. Kasicki and Dr. Knapska. Learning strategies used in a variety of tests such, as defensive and alimentary conditioning, spatial tasks and recognition, and the roles of information transfer is also investigated by Dr. Knapska’s group.
Neuropsychology research is the conducted by two groups. Research topics include hemispheric asymmetry, cognitive functions, sex-related differences in functional brain organization, mechanisms of language, left-handedness and dyslexia. Close cooperation with colleagues at clinics and hospitals enables these groups to research cognitive deficits in stroke, epileptic and Parkinsonian patients, as well as in patients with cochlear implants and children with developmental disorders (Prof. Grabowska and Prof. Szeląg groups).
Neuroinformatics is researched by Prof. Wojcik’s group whose investigations are aimed at the development of tools and models, and putting them to use to understand neural processing of sensory information gathered by electrophysiological, fMRI and behavioral studies.
Ethology is investigated by Prof. Godzinska’s group. This group uses ants as models in comparative research devoted to ontogeny and the neurochemical basis of aggressive and social behavior.
Despite the wide scope of studies, two common topics integrate the research carried out in the Department: 1) intrinsic mechanisms of behavioral neurophysiology and 2) plasticity of the nervous system. The traditional Wednesday seminars allow for the exchange of new ideas and hot discoveries between the research groups. Seminars are also the platform for discussion of the lectures delivered by eminent scientists from all over the world, who visit the Department.
Thematic seminars on ethology, behavior, neuronal systems, neuroinformatics and psychophysiology, as well as regular Journal Clubs, are designed to keep track of the modern trends in neuroscience. A two-day integration party combining scientific and social events is organized each spring for all members of the Department. On this occasion Ph.D. students report their annual achievements and awards are given for the best presentations.
Dynamic cooperation with leading international institutes facilitates implementation of new research techniques which are made available to all member of the Institute. These techniques pertain to include histology, in vitro slice electrophysiology, optical imaging, HPLC and modern behavioral setup equipped with digital recording, telemetry and analyzing facilities. The Department has recently established a Polish node of the international neuroinformatics network, INCF.
During the last thirty years many international conferences and schools on a variety of neuroscience topics have been organized by our Departmental staff. Staff members serve frequently on committees of international brain research organizations (FENS, EBBS, INCF) and are editorial board members of neuroscience journals (Eur. J. Neurosci., Neuroinformatics, ANE). Importantly, the Polish Neuroscience Society, founded in 1991 by former and current members of the Department, continues successfully its integrative and organizational role with the departmental members in the presidial committee. The recent successful organization of the annual Brain Awareness Weeks and the Advanced Course in Computational Neuroscience under auspices of FENS-IBRO have been organized with substantial involvement of the Departmental staff.