Maximiliano Jose Nigro
Background and activities
My interest in neuronal diversity stems from my passion for biodiversity and evolution. Indeed, I apply to neuroscience the same approach as to birdwatching: I look at the morphology of neurons, their behaviour (firing pattern), and the environment they live in (the cortical circuits). During my doctoral studies with Dr. Jacopo Magistretti at the University of Pavia (Italy) I studied the expression of subthreshold sodium currents in different cortical neurons. I then focused on stellate cells of the entorhinal cortex during my postdoctoral work with Dr. Johan Storm at the University of Oslo, where I studied the diversity of potassium channels the shape the behaviour of these neurons.
In order to tackle the challenge of studying cortical circuits I moved to the USA to work with Dr. Bernardo Rudy at NYU. There I used in vitro physiology, intersectional genetics and cellular morphology to dissect the diversity of GABAergic neurons and describe their connectivity. Upon returning to Europe, I joined Dr. Menno Witter at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience to work on multisensory integration in perirhinal cortex and the diversity of its inhibitory neurons.
My project RhinalMultiSense aims at describing the circuits for multisensory integration in perirhinal cortex. For this project I received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innnovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 885955.
The cerebral cortex is the seat of cognitive processes and its laminar structure has fascinated scientists ever since Ramon y Cajal described its cellular components as “butterflies of the soul”. That nickname encloses the importance of the knowledge of the diversity of neuron types in the cortex to understand its functions. The cortex combines information from different senses to produce adequate responses, a process called multisensory integration. In the cortex, multisensory integration has a profound impact on cognitive functions such as sensory perception, memory and decision making. The perirhinal cortex is a high order area where all sensory modalities converge, it relays this information to the entorhinal cortex, and it sends feedback projections to sensory areas of the cortex. The perirhinal cortex is involved in object recognition and memory by integrating sensory features of objects. We will investigate how multisensory integration occurs at the cellular and network level in the mouse perirhinal cortex and how it contributes to perception, object exploration and memory.