SBRI Stem-cell and Brain Research Institute - France (Lyon)

Neurobiology of executive functions

We seek to understand how neural networks in the brain produce complex cognition. Specifically we take established knowledge about simple systems in the brain and understand how it can be applied to higher cognitive functions, often referred to as executive functions. These are functions that allow flexible behaviours that can be readily adapted in volatile environments. So for example neural firing rate, neural synchronization and oscillations are mechanisms by which the brain stores, transmits, and manipulates distributed information in simple perceptual functions. But how these mechanisms apply to higher cognitive functions it little understood.

We know that executive functions require appropriate interactions between large-scale neural networks, as well as modulation by monoaminergic systems. Our research targets the mechanisms of these processes, in particular in primate species. Executive functions, and their neural bases, have unique characteristics in primate species, and in humans in particular.

Our current projects aim at exploring how cognitive processes are specified by neural activity and dynamical interactions between frontal cortical areas, how neuromodulation contributes, and how network interactions change during adaptive behaviours. The frontal cortex has particularly evolved across mammals and in primates in particular. Our research also seeks to identify anatomical and functional principles of the frontal cortex that are conserved or that differ between primate species. Finally, we study the neural basis of the acquisition of these executive processes. We want to understand how the way in which executive functions are learned and acquired in the brain influences later cognition, with implications in a number of fields.

 To address these questions we use multiple techniques (anatomy of connectivity, multiple-microelectrodes, ECoG, EEG, fMRI) to describe the anatomy and function of networks involved in higher cognitive functions in primates. We therefore employ a multi-level and comparative approach to studying cognitive processes. We build upon methods and techniques established at SBRI, as well as developing new theoretical, anatomical and technological approaches in collaboration with colleagues all over the world.

Team Leader(s)


: Neurobiology of executive functions

Members list

Philippe Domenech PHU

Emmanuel Procyk
Team Leader / DR2

Céline Amiez

Charlie Wilson

Delphine Autran

Vincent Fontanier
PhD Student

Clément Goussi
PhD Student

Kep Kee Loh
PhD Student

Laura Viñales
PhD Student

Selected Publications

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