Understanding how the brain functions is undoubtedly one of the most exciting challenges science has to offer, as the brain is not just the most complex structure of the living world, but also plays a major role in what distinguishes us as humans. But understanding the brain is also a major societal issue, with societies confronted by the scourge of neurological diseases, and in particular neurodegenerative diseases associated with aging.

What is at stake is, for example, to understand how 20,000 genes control the "wiring" of billions of synapses linking up our neurons, what influence the environment has on brain development, from embryo to the young adult, and on age-related degradations, and which mechanisms lead to such diseases as epilepsy, autism, addiction or Alzheimer.

To explain how the brain works - or doesn't work -, we need to study the different mechanisms at work on very different scales, from genes to neurons, neural circuits, perception, behaviour and consciousness. Neuroscience research is thus eminently multidisciplinary, ranging from molecular processes to cognitive science, via neurophysiology and neuro-imaging.

At the ULB, all this expertise is gathered together in the ULB Neuroscience Institute (UNI), the home of more than 150 researchers coming from 17 research groups from four faculties. UNI research relies on clinical research. It has at its disposal an exceptional equipment park, including functional magnetic resonance imaging, electro-encephalography and magneto-encephalography, and enabling the study of how neurons function when executing a specific action, with a temporal resolution in the order of one millisecond.

Main research projects (since 2010)

Actions de recherche concertée, ARC

Interuniversity Attraction Pole, IAP

Regional projects (> 500 Keuros)

Chair (> 500 Keuros)

  • AXA Chair in Neurosciences and Longevity

ERC Grants

  • Axel Cleeremans, advanced grant 2013: The Radical Plasticity Thesis: How we learn to be conscious

  • Pierre Vanderhaeghen, advanced grant 2013: Genetic links between development and evolution of the human cerebral cortex

Main prizes and international recognition (since 1970)

  • Paul Bertelson, FNRS quinquennial prize 1991-5

  • Jacques Brotchi, FNRS quinquennial prize 1996-2000

  • Jean-Edouard Desmedt, Francqui Prize 1972 (neurophysiology); FNRS quinquennial prize 1981-5

  • Pierre Vanderhaeghen, Francqui Prize 2011 (medical genetics)