Focus on... Nagham Badreddine and the procedural memory

on the September 12, 2019

Nagham Badreddine is a PhD student at the Grenoble Institute of Neuroscience (GIN) and the GIPSA-Lab. She is studying how procedural memory is formed in the brain. She is using a combination of experimental and computational approaches to probe the neural substrates and develop models of neuronal activity associated to memory.
After her Master 2 internship in neurosciences at the GIN, Nagham Badreddine continued research with a thesis on procedural memory. She is supervised by Elodie Fino (GIN) and Sophie Achard (GIPSA-Lab) . The IDEX Cross Disciplinary Program (CDP) Neurocog funds her thesis. The Grenoble Alpes Data Institute also supports this project by financing the PhD student’s experiments and travelling expenses.

Procedural memory is a type of long-term memory corresponding to motor habits such as driving, playing the piano or skiing. This memory constitutes a fundamental adaptive mechanism built upon daily experience to provide efficiency for common behavior. . When we learn how to drive, it is difficult at first, but after we practice again and again, it becomes automatic. A specific part of the brain is involved in this process. Nagham Badreddine wants to understand how neuronal activity evolve during this learning in order to understand the learning process and how habit is formed.

For this purpose, the young scientist uses behavioral conditioning of mice at the Grenoble Institute of Neuroscience. Mice learn how to run on an accelerated rotarod, a wheel that goes faster and faster. Progressively they get used to this acceleration: it is the learning process. To associate the behavior and the activity of neural networks, Nagham Badreddine monitors the neuronal activities in the mice brain with two-photon microscopy throughout the learning process.

Two-photon microscope

Graph signal processing tools was developed with the collaboration of GIPSA-Lab to describe the data as a graph. By modelling the activity of neuronal networks she showed that there is a general activation beginning of the learning process. Then the learning leads to a refining of the activation with a cell specialization. She now wants to understand the mechanisms behind the learning process and how it could be affected in a pathological context (ie. neurodegeneration).

Huntington’s Disease (HD) is a genetic disease caused by the alteration of a protein which leads to cognitive, psychiatric and motor deficits. Although the progression of symptoms in HD patients was believed to be a consequence of neurodegeneration, it becomes more evident that severe pre-symptomatic dysfunctions appear earlier in the course of the disease, notably cognitive and psychiatric deficits long before motor symptoms. By giving mice the same protein modification, the mice recapitulate the progressive pathological symptoms observed in HD patients. With experimental and computational approaches, the scientific team wants to understand the alteration of cell networks underlying procedural memory to detect cognitive deficits as a pre-symptomatic marker of the disease.
Published on January 9, 2020