The forgotten half of the brain

Dr. Yves Agid of ICM Paris Institute of Translational Neuroscience shared his knowledge about the forgotten half of the brain and the role glial cells play in our behavior during the 2018 Winter Enrichment Program (WEP).

- By Andrea Hulsbosch, KAUST News

Dr. Yves Agid became one of the most highly cited researchers of all time through his groundbreaking Parkinson's research. He is a founding member of the ICM Paris Institute of Translational Neuroscience, where his research focuses on glial cells and how they influence behavior.

Agid is both a medical doctor and a scientist, and his laboratory is devoted to the treatment of patients with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease.

One cubic millimeter of human brain tissue contains one billion connections. The glial cells play an important role in provoking a given behavior by allowing the brain to synthesize and synchronize all the information gathered by the neurons.

"The more glial cells you have in your brain, the more intelligent you are," he said.

These neurotransmissions are the functions that allow the brain to operate correctly. They dictate all our behavior—from emotions to memory, from sleep to learning and so on. Additionally, the dysfunction of glial cells induces all kinds of pathologies in the nervous system like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

"Clinicians know how to treat almost any problem with our bodies, but they don't know how to treat the disorders of the brain yet," explained Agid.

In search of a curative treatment, Agid looks at neurons and glial cells as an ecosystem and is determined to find new drugs acting on both. He expects this ecosystem to be decisive for the patients' future.

"Researchers have long focused on neurons and forgot about the other half of the brain. It is time to be more efficient and take glial cells into consideration whilst doing neurological and cognitive research," Agid said.

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