Advanced techniques for synapse biology

Synapses are sites of information transfer and storage in the brain. These specialised structures integrate complex signals and undergo functional changes that underlie the formation of memories. Synaptic dysfunction is associated with early stages of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, and underlies neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disability.

Studying synapse function and plasticity is key to understanding brain circuits that underlie behaviour, and to identify synaptic malfunction mechanisms underpinning brain diseases. This course will allow students to integrate theoretical and methodological concepts on synapse biology with hands-on experience on state-of-the art imaging, functional and computational methodologies. The course provides an in-depth understanding to many concepts such as synapse formation and maintenance, pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms, structural and functional synaptic plasticity, synaptic integration in neuronal networks and synaptopathies. Hands-on experimental projects conducted in small groups with the support of senior scientists will expose the students to methodologies at the forefront of research in this field.

Course directors

  • Ana Luisa Carvalho (CNC-Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology, University of Coimbra, Portugal)
  • Mathieu Letellier (IINS, University of Bordeaux, France)
  • Hey-Kyoung Lee (The Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute, The Johns Hopkins University, USA)



Anne-Claire Compagnion – Univ. Lausanne, Switzerland
Elena Baz-Badillo – IINS, Univ Bordeaux, France
Frederic Gambino – IINS, Univ Bordeaux, France
Joana Ferreira – CNC, Univ Coimbra, Portugal
Julia Bär – Center for Molecular Neurobiology Hamburg (ZMNH), Germany
Julien Dupuis – IINS, Univ Bordeaux, France
Kevin Crosby – University of Colorado Denver, Department of Pharmacology, USA
Léa Sarzynski – IINS, Univ Bordeaux, France
Lucille Alonso – IINS, Univ Bordeaux, France
Luís Ribeiro – CNC, Univ Coimbra, Portugal
Margaux Giraudet – IINS, Univ Bordeaux, France
Marie-Lise Jobin – IINS, Univ Bordeaux, France
Marina Hommersom – Radboudumc Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Holland
Michelle Bridi – West Virginia University, USA
Mónica Santos – CNC, Univ Coimbra, Portugal
Olivier Nicole – IINS, Univ Bordeaux, France
Tamara Buijs – Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Netherlands
Vivek Belapurkar – IINS, Univ Bordeaux, France

Exposure to central topics in synapse biology, and hands-on experience with exciting projects with innovative techniques.

The research in synapse biology holds a central place in Neuroscience, as it connects findings in molecular and cellular Neuroscience to the understanding of circuits and behaviour. In addition, synaptopathy is a major pathogenic mechanism in both neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. The last decades have brought enormous advances in the methodologies used to study synapses, and which endow researchers with the possibility to bridge from the molecular analyses of synapses to cellular, circuits and behaviour approaches to tackle central questions about how the brain works.

This course provides the opportunity to learn from experts in the field about questions at the forefront of synapse biology, and to obtain hands-on experience with innovative techniques to study synapses. These include gene transfer, live imaging of proteins and signalling molecules (including in vivo 2 photon microscopy), superresolution microscopy for cellular imaging of proteins at excitatory and inhibitory synapses, electrophysiology, animal behaviour and computational methods.

  1. Synaptic traficking
  2. Synaptogenesis, synapse adhesion and synapse maintenance
  3. Presynaptic mechanisms
  4. Inhibitory synapses
  5. Structural and functional synaptic plasticity
  6. Synaptic integration in neuronal networks
  7. Calcium dynamics and signaling
  8. Microglia in the shaping of neural circuits
  9. Synaptic dysfunction in disease
  10. Synaptic computation
  • Whole cell patch clamp recordings in brain slices
  • Patch-seq / RNAseq
  • Co-culture synaptogenic assay
  • Synaptic interactome analysis through proximity-dependent labeling
  • Stereotaxic surgery with cannulae implantation
  • Behavior analysis
  • Confocal time-lapse imaging and FRAP measurements
  • FLIM-FRET measurements for activity sensors
  • Single-molecule tracking and PALM studies
  • Direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (dSTORM)
  • hiPSC culturing and neuronal differentiation
  • MEA recording: Axion Maestro Pro
  • Two photon imaging
  • Nanoscale organization of the synapse
  • Superresolution microscopy in the analysis of transsynaptic interactions
  • Interactome of synaptic cell-adhesion molecules
  • Architectural and signalling dynamics at the inhibitory synapse
  • Regulation of inhibitory synaptic transmission by wake-active neuromodulators
  • Measuring spontaneous network activity of human iPSC-derived neurons using micro-electrode arrays
  • Microglia-mediated synapse engulfment
  • Membrane trafficking/endo/exocytosis
  • In vivo imaging of boutons related to behavior
  • Pharmacological modulation of fear extinction
  • Mitochondrial dynamics and dendritic calcium imaging
  • Multimodal profiling of synaptic connectivity through patch-seq

Keynote Speakers

Alfredo Kirkwood – Johns Hopkins University, USA
Brian D McCabe – EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland
Cécile Charrier – Institute of Biology, École Normale Supérieure, France
Christian Lohmann – Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Netherlands
Daniel Choquet – IINS, University of Bordeaux, France
Joseph Kittler – University College London, UK
Juan Burrone – King’s College London, UK
Julie Perroy – IGF, University of Montpellier, France
Julijana Gjorgjieva – Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Germany
Marina Mikhaylova – Center for Molecular Neurobiology Hamburg (ZMNH), Germany
Nael Nadif Kasri – Radboudumc Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Holland
Noa Lipstein – FMP-Berlin, Germany
Rosa Paolicelli – University of Lausanne, Switzerland