Affiliation: Universidad Miguel Hernández
Keywords: Social Interactions, Neural Circuits, System Neuroscience, Neuropsychiatric Diseases
Dr. Félix Leroy is a neuroscientist studying the neural basis of social interactions. Following his bachelor and master degrees at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, he received a Ph.D. in neuroscience with Suma Cum Laude from the Paris Descartes University in 2014.
For his post-doctoral studies, Félix joined the laboratory of Dr. Steven Siegelbaum at Columbia University. He became interested in a little-studied hippocampal region named CA2 that is necessary for social memory. After discovering a new form of plasticity in CA2 that may support social memory encoding (Leroy et al., Neuron 2017), Félix began examining how CA2 output could mediate social behaviors. Based on his finding that CA2 sends a strong projection to the lateral septum, an area implicated in aggression, he focused on how CA2 might modulate social aggression. As a core motivated behavior, aggression is controlled by a hypothalamic nucleus, specifically the ventro-lateral part of the ventro-medial hypothalamic nucleus (VMHvl). Dr. Leroy discovered that CA2 upregulates VMHvl activity, thereby enhancing aggression, through a disynaptic disinhibitory circuit in the lateral septum that is modulated by the social neuropeptide arginine vasopressin (Leroy et al. Nature 2018).
In the Fall of 2020, Félix joined the Instituto de Neurociencias de Alicante (the largest Spanish neuroscience institute managed by the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas and the Universidad Miguel Hernández) as a principal investigator. There, Dr. Leroy leads the cognition and social interactions laboratory investigating how cognitive information (past experiences and decisions) prioritize, determine and calibrate innate behaviors. Indeed, while the cognitive functions of the cortex (neocortex and hippocampus) have been extensively studied, we know much less about its ability to regulate motivated behaviors fulfilling physiological, safety and social needs. The lateral septum (LS) is ideally positioned to integrate cortical signals in order to regulate the activity of hypothalamic and midbrain nuclei controlling motivated behaviors. LS also receives numerous modulatory inputs from subcortical brain regions. Based on recent cortical-LS-subcortical circuit studies, he studies how LS integration of cognitive inputs regulates motivated behaviors. This is all the more important since malfunctions occurring within cortical-LS circuits may lead to altered social behaviors, a hallmark of many psychiatric disorders.