Dynamics and modulation of cortical network rhythms and virtual reality environments for body representation and new therapy methodologies

REF: PD 07
Principle investigator:
Maria V. Sanchez-Vives
Contact details:



Research framework

The objective ouf our research is double:

  1. To understand the mechanisms underlying network activity of the cerebral cortex and the computations that this network carries out. One of the reasons why we are interested on the physiology of the cerebral cortex is because its understanding is critical to interface cortical activity with external devices.
  2. To exploit virtual reality (VR) as a tool to understand brain function. We are particularly interested in how the brain integrates the representation of the body. Virtual reality is an important tool for these studies. Further, VR can be used in therapy and rehabilitation programs.

Techniques used in our laboratory are:

For objective 1) Cellular and network electrophysiology, behaviour, data analyisis and computer models.

For objective 2) Virtual reality, physiological measurements, haptics, EEG, brain-computer interfaces.


All our publications on both areas can be found at

Research group path followed within this issue

  1. During the last years we have studied the cortical network and its physiology from a combined experimental and theoretical approach. We are now applying this knowledge also to the study of genetically modified mice that are models of neurological diseases, relating their functional alterations to specific cognitive deficits.
  2. The field of body schema and body ownership has experimented a huge expansion in the last 10 years. It includes the study of the brain mechanisms generating the sense of ownership of our bodies. We have been one of the leading groups using virtual reality to explore these brain functions. We are currently exploring mechanisms of induction of body ownership and its plasticity as well as applications of the virtual reality on this field including neurorehabilitation and pain treatment.

Added value of the group in this framework:

  1. We have a long experience on the recordings of emergent rhythmic activity in cortical slices, and we combine this in vitro approach with recordings in the in vivo preparation, including chronically implanted behaving animals. We maintain a good network of international collaborations, in particular on the theoretical and computational aspects of cortical activity.
  2. We use techniques (virtual reality, tracking, brain computer interfaces) and an approach to body ownership that at this moment is quite unique. We are involved in international projects on this field.


Cerebral cortex, Slow oscillations, Brain Rhythms, Virtual reality, Body ownernship, Neurorehabilitation

Main Challenges

Cortical networks:

  1. Cellular and network basis of cortical rhythms.
  2. Identify alterations of cortical function in transgenic models of neurological and psychiatric conditions.
  3. External control of cortical network activity.

Virtual environments in Neuroscience:/

  1. Brain mechanisms of body ownership
  2. Functional rehabilitation

Team strategic objective in IDIBAPS

The growing knowledge of synaptic physiology and brain circuits, together with the development of new instruments with which to register, analyze and model the activity of a large number of neurons has made it possible to address one of the great pending challenges in neuroscience: to understand the relationship between the activity of the neuron population and behavioral performance. Objectives of the team are 1) to address this challenge combining experimental studies in cortical networks with a theoretical approach, 2) to explore the brain mechanisms underlying body ownership and the possible applications of this knowledge in biomedicine.

(Read eligibility criteria)