Research at the GIGA-Neurosciences spans an impressively diverse array of questions and techniques. Since its creation in 2009, research at the GIGA-Neurosciences focuses on the cellular and molecular underpinnings of normal central and peripheral nervous systems development and function. In addition, researchers at the GIGA-Neurosciences investigate the causes related to the failure of those functions and particularly in the case of epilepsy, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, autism spectrum disorders, depression, deafness and sexual orientation and gender identity disorder. GIGA neuroscientists accomplish their research goals using a wide range of methods to identify and manipulate the molecular components of cells. These approaches involve extensive interdisciplinary skills including expertise in molecular biology, biochemistry, cell biology, anatomy, behaviour, cellular imaging and electrophysiological recordings and the testing of transgenic animals.
One area in which GIGA-Neurosciences researchers make important scientific contribution is in the neuroendocrine and neurochemical mechanisms that mediate the activation and sexual differentiation of reproductive behaviour. The study of cellular and molecular facets of post-lesional neuroplasticity following spinal cord or peripheral nerve injury is another powerful research area at GIGA-Neurosciences. Neurophysiology constitutes a particular strength of the GIGA-Neurosciences. Particularly, researchers evaluate the role of various ionic channels in the control of the excitability of monoaminergic neurons. Another specific area of focus is on understanding the interplay between neuronal bioenergetics, excitability and cell survival. Endocrine disrupting chemicals constitute an important public health issue that is specifically addressed at the GIGA-Neurosciences with special emphasis on the pathogenic interaction between endocrine disrupters and insufficient prenatal nutrition. More recently, a new program is developing translational research into the biology and behaviour of glioma. Finally, an important area of research in cellular and molecular neuroscience at the GIGA-Neurosciences is focused on the identification of new cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in key developmental processes such as the production of neurons, inner ear hair cells and glial cells, their differentiation and their migration in the central and peripheral nervous system in health and disease.
A research team led by Julie Bakker (GIGA) and Ulrich Boehm (Saarland University) has made a major advancement in our understanding of how the brain controls sex. The discovery that kisspeptin controls both attraction and sexual desire opens up exciting new possibilities for the development of treatments for low sexual desire.