Bordeaux Neurocampus, University of Bordeaux, FR
Mechanisms of atypical sensory information processing within the somatosensory cortex in an autism mouse model
Human studies have coined the ‘noisy brain’ hypothesis to explain atypical sensory information processing in patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, understanding its neurobiological underpinnings requires rigorous testing of this hypothesis in animal models. In mouse somatosensory cortex, we measured in vivo the activity of layer 2/3 neurons evoked by tactile paw stimulation in the Fmr1-/y mouse model for ASD, combined these measurements with those of spontaneous activity and probed causality with changes in neuronal intrinsic excitability. Notably, we found a complex and nuanced phenotype composed of both cellular and circuit alterations. Further analysis revealed that most parameters were dramatically more variable in the ASD model, both across trials within individual neurons as well as across the entire cell population. Our results could explain a number of ASD phenotypes and suggest a targetable mechanism at the level of neocortical circuits.
Andreas Frick is Research Director at INSERM (French NIH) and heads the Cortical Plasticity group (Neurocentre Magendie, Bordeaux, France) since 2008. His team is member of the Bordeaux Neuroscience Excellence Cluster and Bordeaux Neurocampus. He is a neurobiologist with specialist expertise in intrinsic excitability, functional-structural connectivity and the role of their plastic modification in neocortical circuit function and cognitive abilities. The long-term goal of his work is to identify novel mechanisms underlying neocortical dysfunction and to develop mechanism-based therapeutic strategies to treat psychiatric disorders.
Andreas Frick obtained a Ph.D. in neuroscience at the Max-Planck-Institute for Psychiatry and the Technical University of Munich (Germany). He performed his postdoctoral research with Daniel Johnston (Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas), followed by a research group leader position at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, headed by Nobel Laureate Bert Sakmann, Heidelberg, Germany.
He is an internationally recognised expert in the use of preclinical models for studying neocortical dysfunction in neurodevelopmental disorders. His major contributions to the field have been the highlighted in newspapers (Including Le Figaro) and specialist magazines and in public forums on ASD research. His work is also cited as support for clinical trials using a BKCa channel opener. In 2019, Andreas Frick obtained the Marcel Dassault Prize for innovative research in mental health disorders, and in 2020 he obtained a Research Award from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI).