Grants from the European Research Council (ERC) are among the most prominent and coveted grants in the European Union. Poulet established his laboratory with a 1.5 million Euro ERC Starting Grant. Now he was awarded a 2 million Euro ERC Consolidator Grant, which is intended for outstanding, recently established research teams. MDC researchers have now received 15 of the prestigious ERC grants since 2009.
James Poulet’s research team tries to understand how the brain generates a sensory perception. By training mice to report somatosensory stimuli delivered to their forepaw, his team recently found that the same brain region and even individual nerve cells in the primary somatosensory cortex detect and are required for the processing of touch and cool.
New questions arose: “How is it possible that different sensory inputs like cold and touch can be discriminated from one another when they are detected by the very same cells? And, on the flip side, how are they also integrated or ‘bound’ together to generate a single, coherent percept of a cool object ?” asks Poulet. He wants to answer these questions by continuing to use the mouse forepaw model and current optogenetic and behavioural approaches. This grant provides long-term funding over the course of five years.
How the brain integrates different types of sensory stimuli during sensory perception is a fundamental, but unsolved, problem in neuroscience. A better understanding of how the somatosensory cortex works will help the understanding of the perception of pain, and for neurological conditions where basic functions of the cortex are disrupted, like schizophrenia.