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Carmen Sandi

Carmen Sandi, Brain Mind Institute, EPFL, Switzerland


Mitochondrial dynamics in neuronal structure and function: Behavioral implications


There is important inter-individual variation in stress coping responses and motivated behavior, and trait anxiety is revealing as a key moderator of this variation. Our work in animals and humans identifies the involvement of mitochondrial function and metabolism in the nucleus accumbens – a brain’s motivation hub – in the link between stress, anxiety and motivated actions. We have also identified key modulatory systems explaining anxiety-related differences in the functioning of the mesolimbic system and motivated behavior. I will present work in rodents and humans; the former involving models of stress, natural variation in anxiety and mice genetics and cell-specific viral manipulation, while the latter concerning experiments using virtual reality, magnetic resonance spectroscopy and neuroimaging. Our findings have implications for the understanding of the mechanisms involved in individual differences in vulnerability to stress and comorbidity between anxiety and depression.


Carmen Sandi is a Professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), where she heads the Laboratory of Behavioral Genetics. She has done seminal contributions to the understanding of how stress -acute, chronic, or occurring in early life- affects brain function and behavior, implicating glucocorticoid actions and cell adhesion molecules as key mediators. Currently, her lab investigates the factors and mechanisms that define individual differences in stress effects, placing a strong focus on the contribution of mitochondria and metabolism to the regulation of behavioral vulnerabilities. She did her PhD at the Cajal Institute in Madrid, followed by postdocs at the University of Bordeaux and the UK Open University. Following a tenured professor position at UNED Madrid (1997-2003), she was recruited at the EPFL, where she served as the Director of the Brain Mind Institute from 2012-2018. She is co-Director of the Swiss Center for Competence in Research Synapsy and founder and co-President of the Swiss Stress Network. She was President of the European Brain and Behavior Society (EBBS; 2009-2011), the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS; 2018-2020) and the Cajal Advanced Neuroscience Training Program (2019-2020). She is the founder of the ALBA Network, that she chaired from 2018-2021.

Website: https://www.epfl.ch/labs/lgc/