Ph. D. Project
Biologically realistic computational modeling of hippocampal electrical activity and plasticity in an animal model of schizophrenia
2023/10/01 - 2026/09/30
Other supervisor(s):
BUHRY Laure (
Schizophrenic disorders (SCZ) are psychiatric disorders that affect approximately 1% of the world's population. According to the
DSM-V [1], they are characterized by a range of behavioral and emotional symptoms, some of which are poorly managed by
pharmacological treatments [2]. One of the main obstacles to the development of effective therapies remains our limited
understanding of the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms. In order to overcome this deficiency, animal models of SCZ have
been developed for several years, allowing to demonstrate perturbations of hippocampal synaptic properties [3]. These involve in
particular the excitation-inhibition balance with a crucial role played by alterations in ion channels, essentially potassium and
calcium channels [4,5]. However, animal models alone do not provide complete answers to these questions because it is
impossible to fully dissociate the cellular, synaptic and topological properties of the neuronal mechanisms and networks involved
in the pathology.

The objective of this work is to study the pathophysiological mechanisms of SCZ using mathematical modeling, simulation and
signal processing approaches based on an animal model of the pathology. This multidisciplinary approach will allow us to analyze
the individual contribution of ion channels (excitation-inhibition balance), synaptic perturbations (neurotransmitters) and
structural connectivity modifications (topology of connections, projections, etc). We hypothesize that the phenomena observed
in animal models could be the result of a combination of these factors. If this hypothesis were to be confirmed, it would open the
way to new individualized therapeutic targets.

Methodology and techniques used
The work will be based on a mathematical model of the hippocampus [11,12] already developed in the framework of the theses
of F Giovannini and A Aussel, co-supervised by L Buhry (LORIA) and R Ranta (CRAN). The 1st step will consist in adapting this
human model to a mouse model by using the connectome data of the Allen Institute, then to complete it by integrating different
types of interneurons, which can play a crucial role in the synchronization of the neural network activities. The 2nd step will aim
at implementing synaptic plasticity mechanisms and will involve parallel programming skills for the optimized implementation of
networks and the solution of nonlinear differential equations in very high dimensional graphs. In this perspective, the PhD
student will interact with J Gaidamour (IECL), but also with the developers of Brian (Inst. de la Vision, Paris) used to implement
our initial model. Once the model has been designed under non-pathological conditions, we will explore through simulation
different pathophysiological scenarios by confronting its outputs to strictly controlled electrophysiological recordings on
electrically stimulated hippocampal slices performed by our collaborators (COMETE UMR 1075 INSERM, Univ. de Caen), on an
animal model of SCZ [3]. Some of these mechanisms are currently being explored in the framework of the thesis prepared by L
Raison-Aubry and the postdoctoral work of L Naudin, under the supervision of L Buhry [10, 13].
Electrophysiological signals
In order to confront the computational model with real signals, it is necessary to add a step that will allow the generation of
electric fields depending on the neuronal morphology and anatomy. In our previous work, this step essentially included dipolar
synaptic contributors [12] that we wish to enrich here by integrating action potentials. First results [6] indicate that the
contribution of the latter in the high frequencies can be significant (see also [7]) and we wish to compare these models with in
vitro recordings. To do so, these signals will require a preliminary treatment, in order to separate the different contributors that
generate them. Recent developments (P Jurczinsky's thesis and related work) on the separation of spikes-LFP (action potentials-
synaptic currents) [8] and on near vs. propagated activity [9] will be adapted to the context of multidimensional recordings on
slice (multi-electrode arrays MEA).
biologcally realistic computational modelling, multi-electrode arrays, spikes-LFP separatio
The thesis will take place at LORIA (Neurorhythms), and at CRAN (BioSIS) with a co-supervision at IECL for the numerical
simulation and the HPC (High Performance Computing). The validation of the developed models will be done by confrontation
with experimental data in vitro in the rodent obtained by the laboratory COMETE (UMR 1075 INSERM, Univ. of Caen). The
computational developments will be integrated in the computational neuroscience software Brian, developed at the Institut de la
Vision, Paris. This subject is complementary to a collaboration that we are establishing between the different laboratories
mentioned following a pre-proposal ANR.

Thesis under UL doctoral contract.

Expected profile: master in computer science, signal processing or applied mathematics. Strong interest in computational
Biology, Signals and Systems in Cancer and Neuroscience