Our group is organized around three main vectors: 1. Vision and cognitive neuroscience 2. Clinical Neuroscience 3. Image and signal processing and method development. In the 1st we address a variety of basic science issues including: sensory mechanisms and visual perception at the retinal and cortical level; mechanisms underlying choice behavior, from simple perceptual decisions, to difficult choice under different contexts and the influence of reward and motivational variables. Concerning translational research we focus on functional genomics of retinal degeneration and inherited retinal diseases, mechanisms of cortical plasticity upon retinal injury. In the 2nd, we address functional mechanisms of disease in visual and neurological disorders of development and ageing characterized by fragmented perception and/or decision making at the visual, motor and cognitive control levels. In the 3rd we investigate new approaches on brain imaging using a variety of techniques, multimodal imaging of blood retinal barrier on diabetic retinal disease; functional imaging of the retina and brain, and molecular imaging using nuclear medicine techniques. This vector is anchored on an axis of national leadership in human imaging in vivo: PET, SPECT, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Fluorescence and Bioluminescence Optical Imaging, structural (MR, CT) and molecular/functional imaging (PET, SPECT, fMRI, high density EEG, fNIR, TMS-EEG, TMS-PET). We manage the National Brain Imaging Network, and lead in novel molecular probe production and molecular imaging (given strong cyclotron and radiopharmacy related facilities). These pillars unite in the largest medical imaging center in Portugal and have technical and scientific relevance at the European scale.
Concerning the 3 different levels of organization, the first exists since the inception of IBILI and coordinates the Visual Neuroscience Program. It is coordinated by MCB and organizes weekly research meetings and a regular program of seminars. The clinical neuroscience vector has two branches. The first is centered in neurodevelopmental disorders and features a strong collaboration with the Neurodevelopment Unit of the Pediatric Hospital. GO leads this Unit, a National reference in neurodevelopmental disorders. Patients are, per year, most regularly followed 2/3 times with an intake of new cases around 200 from all the country. A current database of more than 2500 patients with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders is available. This Unit has a strong network with national (INSA, IGC), and international groups (Autism Genome Consortium).
We have implemented a research lab (virtual reality/EEG) within this Unit and meet every week in the context of running national and European Projects. ES coordinates the Clinical Visual Neuroscience Unit and the University Hospital and contributes to the translational research in vision, from the elucidation of genotype-phenotype correlations to mechanisms of visual reorganization and plasticity. AF coordinates the link with the departments of Neurology/Psychiatry, where we do translational research in neuropsychiatric disorders, with an emphasis on diseases with fragmented perception, impaired decision-making or action control, such as Schizophrenia and Parkinson´s disease, both featuring distinct mechanisms of impaired dopaminergic regulation of decision making and motivated behavior. This group has general meetings at a bimonthly basis and focused weekly task force meetings.
The 3rd vector coordinates a mature imaging infrastructure facility focused on functional neuroimaging, the development of novel medical imaging techniques, development of diagnostic biomarkers, new drugs and therapeutic targets, or research contracts with the pharmaceutical industry. It provides the capacity to perform full translational research, from the design of novel molecular probes to molecular and functional imaging in the context of clinical trials.