On 22 July, World Brain Day is celebrated around the world to spread the importance of brain health and to raise awareness about its potential, risks and diseases. This date is a good opportunity to share the work carried out by scientists in the Neuroscience area of IBioBA.

The human brain is one of the most complex and fascinating organs in existence. It is the matrix, the control centre of our body and is responsible for our cognitive, emotional and motor abilities. Although much progress has been made in our understanding of the brain, there is still much we do not know.

One of the unknowns that remains unanswered is why we sleep, and that is what the Neurobiology of Sleep laboratory led by Nara Muraro is working on. Together with her group, they use the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model to study this complex biological process, with the aim of helping to elucidate the circuits and mechanisms underlying sleep. “All animals sleep. Sleep is a vital behaviour but we still don’t know what it’s for, so that’s what we’re studying: why flies sleep, which is probably a conserved function in all animals”, says Muraro.

The aim of the Molecular Neurobiology group is to understand the function of some molecular components of the brain: protein modifications and circular RNAs. “What functions do they fulfil, what happens if these components are lacking or in excess? We are interested in exploring everything from the structure of neurons, their modes of information transmission to their impact on behaviour”, explains Sebastián Giusti, a researcher in the lab.


The brain is made up of billions of neurons that communicate with each other through electrical and chemical signals: our thoughts, memories, perceptions and actions occur due to the collective activity of these neurons. The Neural Circuits group, led by Antonia Marin-Burgin, seeks to elucidate the development and function of neural circuits involved in behaviours based on genetic, molecular, cellular, behavioural and circuit analyses. “We want to understand how neural circuits encode sensory stimuli, how experience modifies the encoding, and what mechanisms are involved in generating different patterns of activity produced by different stimuli”, says Antonia. “Knowing how stimuli are processed in the healthy brain is also important to understand the alterations that can occur in pathological situations”, she adds.

The Cellular Neurobiology and Genetics laboratory is dedicated to the study of axonal transport: axons are the longest projections of neurons that contact other cells over long distances in the body (muscle, nerve, etc.). In the team, they ask how cellular components are transported in the axon, in which direction they move, how much they move, at what speed, and whether all this is affected in neurodegenerative diseases.

“Our work shows that defects in the mobility of axonal cargoes and in the proteins that regulate these dynamics are the main indicators of the pathologies observed in neurodegenerative diseases. This justifies the need to understand the functions that these proteins have in transport prior to the observation of the formation of a late event such as pathology”, explains Tomás Falzone, head of the group.

“The study of the brain is of great importance for several reasons. Firstly, because it helps us to understand our own nature, but also because understanding its underlying mechanisms is fundamental for tackling diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and neurological disorders, which have a major impact on people’s quality of life”, concludes Damián Refojo, director of the Institute and head of the Molecular Neurobiology group.