How does chronic stress that we feel every day impair the brain and induce mood disorders?. This is the question that motivates the research in our laboratory. We hypothesize that stress, endocannabinoids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) form a system in the brain, which is susceptible to our lifestyle and sometimes can be a risk factor for mood disorders, e.g. major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders.
We study in animal models how stress and diet of lifestyle influences brain rhythms in the limbic system, affecting emtional processing and cognitive functions such as memory and attention.
We use several technical approaches in our research:
In vivo electrophysiological recording in behaving rats: This technology allows us to study during behavior the dynamics of neuronal activity (LFP, Spikes) related to emotional processing. Thus, it is possible to understand how these neural networks are affected when specific behaviors are developed in animal models of neuropsychiatric disorders. For example, we can understand in these animal models how neural networks that regulate the mood are affected as the depressive and anxious behavior develops.
Animal models to study neuropsychiatric disorders:
Our lab has specialized in developing several animal models to study the neurobiological basis of mental illnesses related to stress. We have animal models (rats) to study depressive-like behaviors, resilience and anxiety-like behaviors in childhood, adolescence and adulthood, among others.
Neuropharmacology with Alzet pumps:
This technology allows drugs to be applied chronically in the brain and to analyze the effects specifically in the central nervous system.
ELISA: Quantification of stress hormones (cortisol and ACTH) in plasma samples.
Immunofluorescence, IHQ, neuronal morphology:
We study the effects of stress and drugs om location and levels of proteins associated to neuronal activity (cFos) and neuronal markers (PV+, GFAP, etc). In addition, we perform basic histology to determine the implants location (Nissl stain) and neuronal morphology (Golgi stain).
RT-PCR to analyze changes in gene experession.
Hans Selye, an Austro-Hungarian researcher, introduced the concept of stress which he defined as a nonspecific biological response of an organism to any pressure or demand from the environment. Stress is oriented to restore homeostasis and to adapt to environment pressure (stressor). Stress can be positive (eustress) when the stressors are mild, brief and controllable. Strong, persistent, and uncontrollable stressor may lead to a maladaptive response (distress). Chronic stress or distress impairs the brain and affect memory and the emotional processing. These alterations are a risk factor to develop depressive and anxiety disorders.