Bertinoro, Italy
15-21 April 2018

International Astrocyte School
dedicated to
Glia in Health and Disease


The International Astrocyte School is aimed at all those who are attracted by the most intriguing hypotheses on the role of astrocytes in brain function and dysfunction and wish to learn how to best approach these problems. The school, with its strategy of disseminating state-of-the-art knowledge, is especially targeted at young scientists beginning their careers in this field, but is also open to senior scientists wishing to refresh their glial background.

A hallmark of our School is the debate of intriguing concepts, often with contradictory data in current literature. One of the aims of the School is to critically evaluate the available data and possible interpretations, following rigorous and unbiased scientific approaches. Every year, the IAS Agora brings students and faculty together to discuss selected themes, in an open and informal fashion (when possible in the beautiful context of an open-air amphitheatre).

Agora session

Faculty 2018

Alfonso Araque (Minneapolis, MN, USA)

Alfonso Araque

Alfonso Araque is Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota since 2013. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1993 in Biological Sciences at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He did his postdoctoral research with Dr Phil Haydon at the Iowa State University, Ames, USA, from 1996 to 1999, studying astrocyte-neuron communication in cultured cells. He established his independent laboratory in 2001 at the Cajal Institute in Madrid, Spain, where he continued to study the properties and mechanisms of the reciprocal communication between neurons and astrocytes. He was Coordinator of the Biomedicine area of the National Agency for Evaluation and Prospective in Spain, Vice-President of the Spanish Society for Neuroscience. He is editorial board member of Cell Calcium, Glia and eNeuro. His major contributions include: the first demonstration of astrocyte-induced slow inward currents (SIC) mediated by calcium and SNARE-protein dependent glutamate release from astrocytes; the ability of astrocytes to discriminate between the activity of different synapses and to integrate those inputs, which indicate that astrocytes show integrative properties for synaptic information processing; the existence of new forms of neuron-astrocyte signaling mediated by endocannabinoids; the ability of astrocytes to regulate synaptic transmitter release at single hippocampal synapses; the existence of a form of long-term potentiation (LTP) of synaptic transmission induced by the temporal coincidence of astrocytic and postsynaptic signalling; the ability of endocannabinoids to potentiate synaptic transmission through stimulation of astrocytes; the involvement of astrocytes in the cholinergic-induced LTP in vivo; and the circuit- and synapse-specific astrocyte-neuron signaling in the striatum.

David Attwell (London, UK)

David Attwell

In my lab we are interested in signalling between neurons and glial cells (oligodendrocytes, astrocytes and microglia), and in how the brain’s energy supply is controlled and determines the computational power of the brain. Recent work on neural-glial signalling has focussed on how activation of glutamate and GABA receptors on oligodendrocytes may be responsible for the mental and physical disability occurring in white matter diseases such as cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury. Our studies of brain energy supply have characterized a new locus (in capillaries) for control of cerebral blood flow, have investigated how the amount of energy the brain receives determines the speed of the neural computations performed, and have studied the consequences of failure of the energy supply in conditions like stroke. We are also interested in how synaptic signalling to neurons is modulated. This work is performed using patch-clamp, calcium imaging and oxygen electrode techniques applied to brain slices and isolated cells, and using mathematical modelling.

Giorgio Carmignoto (Padua, Italy)

Giorgio Carmignoto

Dr Giorgio Carmignoto is group leader at the Institute of Neurosciences which belongs to the National Research Council (CNR), the main public research organisation in Italy. He is also associated with the Department of Biomedical Sciences of the University of Padua. The central theme of his research is the specific signalling between neurons and astrocytes investigated by laser-scanning microscope living cell imaging and patch-clamp recording techniques. Among obtained results are the first evidence for the ability of astrocytes i) to be activated by neurotransmitter synaptic release in slice preparations; ii) to work as principal mediators of neurovascular coupling; iii) to generate neuronal synchrony by acting on extrasynaptic NMDA receptors. His research is now focused on the role of astrocytes in epilepsy.

Shumin Duan (Hangzhou, China)

Shumin Duan

Elly Hol (Utrecht, Netherlands)

Elly Hol

Elly Hol was trained as a medical biologist with a specialization in molecular neurobiology. After her Ph.D. in Utrecht, she obtained a Max-Planck Fellowship to work for 2 years at the Max-Planck-Institute for Neurobiology in Martinsried, Germany. In 1997, she started as a post-doc at the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research in Amsterdam, where she acquired substantial funding, including a fellowship of the Netherlands Brain foundation. Between 2003 and 2013 she headed the group “Astrocyte Biology & Neurodegeneration” at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience. She currently is professor of “Biology of Glia and Neural Stem Cells” at the University of Amsterdam (2011), and associate professor in Utrecht (2013). Elly Hol is a recipient of numerous research grants, including the prestigious NWO VICI-award. She is in the editorial board of Glia, chair of the ‘Friends of the Neurofederation’, and chair of GliaNed. The research of her group is focused on the role of glial cells in brain diseases. The overall aim is to elucidate the molecular and functional changes in glia that contribute to the pathogenesis of neurological and psychiatric diseases. Her work is particularly concerned with studying glial cells in human post-mortem brain tissue and in mouse models for brain diseases. She applies sophisticated immunological, molecular and cell biological techniques on whole brain tissue and on glia isolated from human and mouse brains. Elly Hol’s work is published in leading journals such as Brain, Molecular Psychiatry, Science, and Stem Cells Translational Medicine. She is regularly invited as a speaker at dedicated research conferences and at events for a broader scientific audience. She enjoys to explain research to the general public.

Frank Kirchhoff (Homburg, Germany)

Frank Kirchhoff

Frank Kirchhoff is Chair of the Department of Molecular Physiology at the University of Saarland in Homburg, Germany. He studied biochemistry at the University of Hannover, received his PhD degree in neurobiology from the University of Heidelberg and habilitated in biochemistry at the Free University of Berlin. After postdoctoral periods at the University of Heidelberg and the Max-Delbrück-Centrum for Molecular Medicine, Berlin, he started his research group ‘Glial Physiology and Imaging’ at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine, Department of Neurogenetics in Göttingen in 2000. In 2009, he was appointed as full professor at the University of Saarland. He is Editorial Board Member of GLIA and Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy. His research addresses the molecular and cellular mechanisms of neuron-glia interactions using transgenic mouse models and in vivo-imaging. He developed a series of transgenic mice with cell-type specific fluorescent protein or inducible cre DNA recombinase expression in various glial cells. These mice appeared as valuable tools to study the structural dynamics of glial cells and the function of glial transmitter receptors in vivo.

Arlette Kolta (Montréal, QC, Canada)

Arlette Kolta

Giovanni Marsicano (Bordeaux, France)

Giovanni Marsicano

Dr. Giovanni Marsicano is a tenured researcher at Inserm. He leads the group “Endocannabinoids and Neuroadaptation” at the NeuroCentre Magendie, an INSERM and University of Bordeaux Research Center devoted to neuroscience. Dr. Marsicano is a Veterinary Medicine Doctor as formation. After the Veterinary diploma, he worked on research related to Embryonic Stem Cells from farm animals and to xenotransplantation models in Italy for 4 years. He then moved to the Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich for a PhD student position, where he initiated the work on the role of type-1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1) and of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in brain physiology, which since has been his main research interest. The subject of his PhD thesis was the generation of conditional mutants for CB1 and anatomical and functional studies on the mechanisms of action of the ECS. After PhD graduation in 2001, he made two post-doc periods in Germany and moved to Bordeaux in 2006 (recruited as senior scientist in 2007) to lead his independent research group. He is member of the SfN, the French Society of Neuroscience, the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) and of the International Society of Neurochemistry (ISN). By using conditional mutagenesis in mice and behavioral, biochemical and electrophysiological tools, his work contributed defining the role of CB1 in specific cell populations in learning and memory, food intake and energy balance, anxiety, stress-coping and others. Through a clear bottom-up scientific approach, these studies allowed exploring some general principles of brain functioning, such as the balance between excitation and inhibition, the interactions between the brain and the periphery, the importance of energy metabolism in brain functions and, more recently, the interaction glial-neurons. In 2012, by generating conditional mutant mice lacking CB1 receptors from GFAP-positive cells, he contributed to define the role of astroglial CB1 receptors in the working memory effects of cannabinoids and on their in vivo electrophysiological correlates. Since then, the role of astroglial CB1 receptors became one of the most important lines of research in his group.

Keith Murai (Montréal, QC, Canada)

Keith Murai

Dr. Keith Murai is a Professor of Neurology & Neurosurgery at McGill University and is the Director of the Centre for Research in Neuroscience and Leader of the Brain Repair and Integrative Neuroscience (BRaIN) Program at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. He is a recipient of a Canada Research Chair and is an EJLB Scholar. His research focuses on: (1) Understanding neuron-astrocyte communication in the developing and adult brain and its relationship to neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases and (2) Discovering mechanisms regulating synaptic plasticity and memory formation in the healthy and diseased brain. His research uses cutting-edge mouse genetics with electrophysiological and imaging techniques. He is an Associate Editor at the Journal of Neuroscience, Editor at Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, and an editorial board member at Developmental Neurobiology.

Richard Robitaille (Montréal, QC, Canada)

Richard Robitaille

Richard Robitaille is a Professor in the Département de neurosciences at Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada. He is the director of the research group on the central nervous system (GRSNC) at Université de Montréal. He received his Ph.D. in 1989 in Neurobiology at Université Laval with Dr Jacques P. Tremblay. He did his post-doctoral training with Dr Milton P. Charlton in the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto from 1989 to 1993. He then started his independent research activities in 1993 at Université de Montréal where he stayed since. He received number of national and international awards at all stages of his career. He is an associate editor for the journal Glia and Current Opinion in Physiology. His research focuses on the role of glial cells in the regulation of synaptic functions in normal as well as in pathological conditions. He uses mammalian neuromuscular junctions and acute brain slices as experimental models. He addresses the role of glial cells in the regulation of basal synaptic transmission and the regulation of synaptic plasticity. He also studies the contribution of glial cells in the outcome of synaptic competition, during aging and in ALS.

Christine Rose (Duesseldorf, Germany)

Christine Rose

Harald Sontheimer (Roanoke, VA, USA)

Harald Sontheimer

Marie-Ève Tremblay (Québec, QC, Canada)

Marie-Ève Tremblay

Marie-Ève Tremblay is an assistant professor at Université Laval in Québec since March 2013. During her training, she developed expertise in non-invasive imaging to study the physiological roles of glial cells throughout the lifespan. Using these techniques, her postdoctoral work revealed that microglia, the resident immune cells of the brain, actively remodel neuronal circuits (by phagocytosis of pre-synaptic axon terminals and post-synaptic dendritic spines) during normal physiological conditions. As an independent investigator, she is now exploring the significance of this new cellular mechanism which could represent the missing link between neuroinflammation and cognitive dysfunction in the pathogenesis of diseases. In particular, her research focusses on elucidating the roles of microglia in the loss of synapses which best correlates with the impairment of learning and memory across chronic stress, aging, and various pathological conditions. In complement, she is investigating the involvement of bone marrow-derived myeloid cells which infiltrate the brain through the vasculature, to provide further insights into the relationship between the brain and body across homeostasis, plasticity and disease. She is also studying additional physiological roles of microglia and other myeloid cell types in the brain, as well as their dysregulation upon chronic stress, depression, schizophrenia, aging, and neurodegenerative diseases to identify new pathogenic mechanisms. This work is conducted using a longitudinal approach that combines non-invasive chronic two-photon in vivo imaging –structural and functional– with superesolution microscopy, correlative 3D-scanning electron microscopy, and behavioural assessments. Her long-term goal is to help develop new therapies using myeloid cells as vectors for effecting targeted changes in neuronal circuits, in order to spare memories, learning and other cognitive functions.

Past editions of the School

IAS 2017 • 26 March - 1 April 2017

IAS 2016 • 10-16 April 2016

IAS 2015 • 12-18 April 2015

IAS 2014 • 6-12 April 2014

IAS 2013 • 17-23 March 2013

IAS 2012 • 25-31 March 2012

IAS 2011 • 27 March - 3 April 2011

Applications open next
31 October 2017

Executive Board

Alfonso Araque
Minneapolis, MN, USA

Giorgio Carmignoto
Padua, Italy

Richard Robitaille
Montréal, QC, Canada

Paulo Magalhães
Padua, Italy