Projects

DEVELOP NEW LINES OF RESEARCH AND PROVIDE HEALTH CARE RECOMMENDATIONS AND INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS TO PRACTITIONERS IN CLINICAL NEUROPSYCHOLOGY 

  • Neuropsychology of habit

In the course of a normal day, we constantly alternate between automatic, routine and habitual behaviors, interspersed with episodes of conscious cognitive control to adjust to changing situational demands (Evans, 2008, Graybiel, 2008).

Over the past few decades, neuroscience has advanced exponentially, and researchers now believe that this dynamic switching between habitual and control behavior is subtended by three different systems within the brain. The cerebral cortex would be specialized for unsupervised learning based on Hebbian plasticity. The basal ganglia would be specialized for reinforcement (reward- based) learning, guided by the reward signals from midbrain dopaminergic neurons. The cerebellum would be specialized for supervised (error- based) learning, guided by error signals from the inferior olive (Doya, 2000, Bostan & Strick, 2018). All three systems require coordinated interactions to generate and implement normal behavior.

The main question we ask in our lab is whether this vision is relevant to understanding, assessing and rehabilitating brain and cerebellar conditions. CENLabs’s projects all have two main strands: experimental, where we seek to improve knowledge about the brain‑behavior relationship focusing our interest on the psychological and neural mechanisms underlying habit formation and expression; and applied, where we endeavor to translate our ideas and discoveries into new guidelines and tests for practitioners working in the field of clinical neuropsychological evaluation and rehabilitation.

Grant : Cerebellar contribution to human emotion: insights from stroke and neuroimaging (Swiss National Foundation – 2019 to 2023 – Grant N°: 105314_182221, PI: Péron)

 

  • COVID-COG Project : Short- and long-term neuropsychological impairment following COVID-19

Background : COVID-19 is frequently associated with neurological and cognitive disorders in the acute phase of the infection. Neuro-immunological or vascular diseases have been identified as the potential cause of these impairments. Therefore, there is a high probability of long-term neuropsychological sequelae, even for the mild and moderate forms of COVID-19. It is also important to consider the neuropsychiatric problems induced by health measures such as lockdown, the fear of being infected, or symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorders, which have also a major impact on cognition or cognitive reserve.

Research aims : The objective of the COVID-COG project is to assess the neuropsychological consequences of COVID-19 at 6 and 12 months after the infection, and to determine whether these possible short- and long-term effects correlate with the severity of the disease in the acute phase, and/or with the expected neuropsychiatric disease in the wake of this massive public health crisis. 

Expected results : Based on current hypotheses regarding neurological damage following severe infection with COVID-19, we expect to observe a harmful impact on neuropsychological functions that continues to impair patients’ functioning and quality of life 6 months and even 12 months post-infection. In addition, we aim to ascertain whether neuropsychological dysfunctions occur solely in patients with the severe forms requiring intensive care, or also in patients with moderate or even mild forms of the infection. Finally, we will explore the impact of psycho-traumatological consequences of the pandemic on these neuropsychological sequelae.

Specific contribution to tackle the current pandemic : It is extremely important to address these questions, in order to identify the relevant predictive (clinical, epidemiological and neuropsychiatric) variables of developing cognitive impairment following COVID-19. This will enable us to develop specific rehabilitation programs as early as possible, with a view to increasing individual patients’ cognitive health, as well as avoiding any additional long-term economic costs of the pandemic.

Investigators : The project will be supervised by Doctor Julie Péron (PI) and Professor Frédéric Assal (co-PI). Prof. Assal is Head Behavioural Neurologist at HUG’s Adult Neurology Department, and Associate Professor of Neurology at Geneva University’s Faculty of Medicine. The project will also involve six medical doctors involved in the acute-phase care of patients with COVID-19 and will be implemented at HUG, in order to secure a sufficient number of patients, as well as provision of the necessary skills and equipment.

Grant : Short- and long-term neuropsychological impairment following COVID-19 (Swiss National Foundation – NRP 78 – 2020 to 2022 – Grant N°: 4078P0_198438, PI: Péron)

The NRP 78 aims to capitalise and build on existing national research competencies, to channel and bundle them into more extensive projects, and to foster multidisciplinary collaborations and sharing of data and results between scientists, health professionals and health authorities. The goal is to support innovative projects that can achieve results as soon as possible and to submit appropriate recommendations and solutions to combat the current Covid-19 crisis in Switzerland. ” Swiss National Foundation.