What motivated you to study in the field of Parkinson’s?
For over 30 years, I have been interested in how the brain works. In the last 20 years, I have had a particular interest in the functioning of dopamine neurons. I became more interested in Parkinson’s disease in the early 2000s when I realized that our findings on the normal functioning of dopamine neurons could lead to new insights on the dysfunction and death of these neurons in Parkinson’s disease. Since then, we have never stopped our efforts in this area and have made some great discoveries.
What are the goals of your research project?
My laboratory is currently working simultaneously on different projects. They all aim to better understand the normal functioning of the brain’s modulating neurons, such as neurons that use dopamine as a chemical messenger. They also explain why these same neurons are at such high risk in Parkinson’s disease. We are especially trying to better understand how dopamine neurons form during the development of the brain, how they interact with other neurons in the brain and through which mechanisms they secrete their chemical messengers such as dopamine and glutamate. We are also testing new hypotheses on the vulnerability of these neurons vulnerability in Parkinson’s disease. We are trying to understand how their connectivity and activity makes them more susceptible to attack in response to oxidative stress, and how pathogens such as bacteria could trigger an attack on these neurons through the immune system.