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Laboratory Plasticity of Brain Networks
CSIC-Universidad Miguel Hernández
Campus de Sant Joan
Avenida Ramón y Cajal s/n
03550 - Sant Joan d´Alacant (Alicante)

+34 965 919202
+34 965 919561

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Dr Santiago Canals
Cellular and Systems Neurobiology
The Instituto de Neurociencias de Alicante

Research Area

The work of our group focuses on two research lines: plasticity of brain networks and brain energetics.

How are memories encoded, stored and retrieved in our brains?
Experience-dependent modulations of synaptic strength shape the functional structure of the brain, recruiting relevant networks in a particular context and supporting behavioural adaptation. Little is known, however, about how synapse dynamics are transformed into network dynamics. Recently we have demonstrated that brain circuits involved in learning and memory are functionally reorganized after local potentiation of synaptic transmission in the hippocampus. In our present project we aim at investigating the mechanisms underlying this network reorganization, focusing on short- and long-term synaptic plasticity and neuromodulation. To this end we combine functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with electrophysiological techniques and deep brain microstimulation, in murine models of learning and memory.

The same cellular mechanisms that mediate experience-dependent neuroplasticity and allow learning from, and react to, changes in the environment can also be activated by drugs of abuse. Human and animal studies indicate that the refractory nature of addiction results from drug-induced stimulation of reward-related learning networks. As a consequence, drug seeking behaviour becomes hard-wired in the addict’s brain. By applying the same multidisciplinary approach, we are investigating the functional reorganization of brain networks supporting addiction and relapse.

In the second research line we aim at investigating the neurometabolic and neurovascular coupling mechanisms that sustain brain function. Here our interest is twofold; we want to understand the metabolic energy requirement of neuronal signalling and its impact on brain physiology (efficient coding strategies) and pathology (i.e. stroke, anoxia, concussion). On the other hand, we want to know the precise and quantitative neurophysiologic basis of the blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal to improve the interpretation of fMRI data.

Please see also:


5 Selected Publications

Álvarez-Salvado E., Pallarés V., Moreno A., Canals S. (2013) Functional MRI of long-term potentiation: imaging network plasticity. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B. In press.

Moreno A, Jego P, de la Cruz F, Canals S. (2013) Neurophysiological, metabolic and cellular compartments that drive neurovascular coupling and neuroimaging signals. Front Neuroenergetics, 5: 3.

Mishra A., Schuz A., Engelmann J., Beyerlein M., Logothetis NK., Canals S. (2011) Biocytin-Derived MRI Contrast Agent for Longitudinal Brain Connectivity Studies . ACS Chem Neurosci., 2 (10): 578-87.

Eschenko O., Canals S., Simanova I., Beyerlein M., Murayama Y., Logothetis NK. (2010) Mapping of functional brain activity in freely behaving rats during voluntary running using manganese-enhanced MRI: implications for longitudinal studies. Neuroimage, 49 (3): 2544-55.

Canals S., Beyerlein M., Merkle H., and Logothetis, NK. (2009) Functional MRI evidence for LTP-induced neural network reorganization. Curr. Biol., 19 (5): 398-403. 


Awards, Fellowship and Honours

2005            HFSPO Long-term fellowship
2003            Honourable mention of the Parkinson Disease Foundation to the PhD work

Technical Expertise

  • Electrophysiology (sharp intracellular and extracellular recordings in vitro and in vivo, multi channel recordings in vivo, microdialysis, etc.)
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) contrast
  • Concomitant application of fMRI, electrophysiological recordings and electric microstimulation
  • Manganese enhanced MRI (MEMRI) for neuronal-tract tracing in vivo and fMRI in freely behaving animals