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Équipe F. Tell

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Visceral information Processing

The team "Visceral information Processing" is studying the cellular mechaninsms involved in the processing of sensory information coming from the viscera. With cellular approaches, we study the synaptic physiology and the electrical properties of neurons located at the first integration center for visceral information, the nucleus of the solitary tract. This work feeds more integrated studies aimed at deciphering the operation of circuits controling homeostatic regulation (breathing, digestion, ...).

Our research goal is to better understand how the nervous system analyzes sensory information coming from the viscera (heart, lungs, intestines, etc.). These visceral sensations are usually not consciously perceived. They are nevertheless essential in maintaining the physiological and psychological balance of the individual. They are required for the correct operation of vital functions : respiration, circulation and digestion. They are also involved in the genesis of complex sensations such as hunger or thirst. Finally, they play a role in emotional experience and in the regulation of mood. Given these functional implications, the consequences of deficits affecting the delivery and processing of visceral information can be very wide. Thus, a large variety of diseases are concerned from the disruption of vital functions to mood disorders, including depression, and feeding behavior. A first line of research concerns the organization of neurotransmission in the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS), a brainstem nucleus that is the area of projections of vagal sensory fibers and which therefore constitutes the major entry to the brain for viscero-sensory information. We use approaches of cell biology and physiology including electrophysiology and confocal and electron microscopy to study the structure, function and plasticity of excitatory synapses (glutamatergic) and inhibitory (GABAergic, glycinergic) of this nucleus. A second line of research, at a more integrated level, focuses on neural circuits involved in the regulation of respiration and movement of the upper airway. This work is done using techniques of non-invasive recordings in awake animals (plethysmography) and preparations perfused in situ (brainstem-isolated heart-lung). Finally we focus on the effects of an air pollutant, ozone, which is able of jeopardizing the brain by activating structures involved in stress responses by activating sensory fibers pulmonary type C.

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