The main focus of our research is to unravel major neural integration hubs that process multisensory cues during socio-sexual behaviours, match them with the individual's body states and needs and thereafter orchestrate a complex, well-adapted motor output that shape a socio-sexual interactio. To tackle these questions we take a multidisciplinary approach by combining various state-of-the-art tools: molecular based strategies with high specificty (virus combined with transgenic mice) and high temporal resolutaion (optogenetics, imaging and electrophysiology in vivo) are employed in freely moving socio-sexually interacting mice.
Genital cortex growth during puberty
Based on the PhD work by Constanze we want to unravel the mechanisms through which the portion of the primary somatosensory cortex that represents the genitals is able to undergo pubertal growth and how tactile cues are kicking off brain and hormonal mechanisms thereby triggering genital cortex growth and body changes.
Organization and activation of medial amygdala circuits underlying socio-sexual behaviour
This project is centred around the medial amygdala and handles two main axes. We (1) want to gain mechanistic insights about the neural circuits of the medial amygdala that are able to integrate different sensory modalities, match them to the body state and in turn drive various aspects of adult female sexual behaviours. In parallel, (2) we will tackle the question how these circuits come to place during puberty and how multisensory cues act on the circuit, thereby triggering organizational processes that are needed to reach sexual maturity.
Spinal cord circuits underlying sexual behaviour
In collaboration with Susana Lima's Lab at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown we investigate the role of the spinal cord during male sexual behaviour and how the brain spinal coordination is crucial for the copulatory sequence to take place.