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The human brain is a remarkable organ, but how did it evolve to give us such unprecedented cognitive abilities? ERC grantee Pierre Vanderhaeghen and his team from ULB, VIB-KU Leuven turned to the genome for answers: a specific set of genes, found only in humans, could play a determinant role on the size of our brain. Published today in Cell, Vanderhaeghen's EU-funded research helps to unlock the secrets of human evolution.
Prof. Gregoire Courtine believes paralysed patients will be able to walk again. This belief has represented the focus of years of work aimed at regenerating the functions of the spinal cord after injury. Thanks to his ERC funding in both 2010 and 2015, Prof. Courtine and his team have been able to develop so-called “personalised neuroprosthetics” that have led immobile rats, and more recently monkeys, to overcome their paralysis.
By focusing on certain actions and reactions within the brain, an EU-funded project has advanced understanding of how Alzheimer’s Disease develops. This could potentially open the door to a new era of targeted treatments.
A crucial discovery of how the brain functions has been made by EU-funded researchers. ERC Advanced Grant holder Prof. Oscar Marin and his team have shown that brain's 'hardware' - using the computing metaphor - is in fact tuneable and can adapt to internal and external influences. The findings could help develop new therapies for neurological disorders such as epilepsy, which affects around 50 million people globally.
ERC grantee Marta Moita and her team use cutting-edge experimental procedures to investigate how rats and flies learn to appropriately respond to danger from other individuals. The results of her study may teach us a lot about our own brains, and shed light on diseases that impair social behaviour.
ERC grantee Professor Deniz Kirik's spin-off company will join forces with Skåne Regional Council in southern Sweden to build a specialised hospital and a state-of-the-art gene therapy centre, the parties announced on 8 October. The new facilities are expected to be operational by 2020. They will provide researchers unique opportunities for clinical trials, while patients will gain access to the latest treatment methods for Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses.
If Darwin could have scuba dived, he would have enjoyed the East African lakes: Victoria, Malawi and Tanganyika. Here live the cichlids – a colourful fish which has evolved rapidly into thousands of species, emulating and surpassing Darwin's finches in the Galapagos. Prof. Walter Salzburger, an Austrian researcher, is using his ERC grants to study the diversity of cichlids from ecological, morphological and genetic viewpoints. He believes these unique fish provide an ideal model system to understand the "how" and the "why" in questions of evolutionary biology: questions that relate to all life on earth.
The brain is one of the most energy-consuming organs. It represents only 2% of the weight of an adult but it uses 20% of the energy produced by the body. Efficient energy supply is crucial for the brain so that our memory, mobility and senses can function normally. On the occasion of the ‘Month of the Brain’ in May 2013, ERC Advanced grantee, Prof. David Attwell at University College London (UK) explains the mechanisms through which the brain is powered. Understanding these mechanisms may allow the development, in the long-term, of innovative therapies for cerebrovascular disorders.
With their transparent skin and a known genome, the zebrafish larvae are emerging as a model for neuroscientists. It enables researchers to monitor large portions of the brain in an intact behaving vertebrate. Dr German Sumbre, an ERC grantee from Argentina, uses zebrafish in order to achieve a better understanding of the neural mechanisms of sensory perception, and as a means of providing new insights into neurological disorders.