rui costa

Rui M. Costa

Principal Investigator - Investigator of the Champalimaud Neuroscience Program at IGC.
Guest Researcher, NIAAA, NIH.

Interests: Animals have a distinctive ability to behave, i.e. to move and interact with their surroundings, which permits them to shift between environments and also to change their environment.
Did you ever stop to think why animals move? What type of nervous system organization permits the generation of movement? How can actions be planned to achieve particular goals? To what extent they reflect the interaction with the environment or inherited programs? Do similar movements always represent similar actions? How do sequences of actions emerge? And how do certain actions become compulsive?

The study of the neural mechanisms underlying our ability to act is a fascinating topic in neuroscience that has become truly multidisciplinary in recent years, integrating a considerable array of technologies and approaches. We use an integrative approach in mouse models to investigate the neural mechanisms of action.

Cristina Afonso

Cristina Afonso

Lab Manager / Postdoc - IGC Oeiras

Current Projects: The protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii induces behavioral alterations in rodents and may exert an effect on human personality and behavior. The mechanism through which infection produces these changes is not yet understood but it has been hypothesized that parasite cysts found in the brain could affect the dopaminergic neuromodulatory system.

The focus of my research is on whether there is a region-specific correlation between the presence of parasite cysts and altered dopamine levels. Additionally, I analyze region-specific alterations in neural activity, which may underlie the effects of chronic Toxoplasma infection on mouse behavior (specifically on movement, anxiety, and predator fear).


Eduardo Dias Ferreira

Ph.D Student - IGC Oeiras / BEB PhD Program

Current Projects: The ability to select appropriate actions based on their consequences and the automatization of recurring decision processes allow us to respond in an efficient way to everyday life challenges. Stress response is essential for adaptation to a constantly changing environment and plays an essential role in the shift between goal-directed actions and habits.

I am interested in the impact of stress in decision-making strategies, spanning from behavior through the circuit into molecules.

Fernando Santos

Fernando Santos

Ph.D Student - IGC Oeiras / PGCN 2008

Current Projects: The capacity to store information and consolidate memories for long periods of time is one of the most important brain functions. Selection and competition mechanisms between different neurons may play a role in determining which cells are recruited to store information, but the dynamics of neuronal ensemble activity and reorganization during the formation and consolidation of memories needs further investigation.

In my project I propose to investigate the dynamics of neuronal ensemble selection and competition during motor skill learning. By labeling and recording from cells that are active in the motor cortex and striatum during the performance and consolidation of motor skills I aim at unravelling some of the mechanisms that underly the formation of memories.

Gabi Martins

Gabriela Martins

Postdoc - IGC Oeiras

Current Projects: Habit formation is a process by which new behaviors become automatic. The formation of these habits is mediated in part by the dorsal striatum, however the underlying neural substrates for the development of these circuits are poorly understood.
My project looks at how part of the dorsal striatal circuitry develops and how it may mediate habit formation.

Joana Almeida

Joana Almeida

Research Technician - IGC Oeiras

Interests: Transgenic animals contain foreign genes, artificially introduced, allowing the study of gene functions and the reproducibility of human diseases in animal models. The aim of my work is to improve a new technique to achieve these animals easily and faster.


Sara Santos

John Burkhardt

Postdoc - IGC Oeiras

Current Projects: As the scale of investigation moves from single cells and cell cultures to the organismal level, it becomes increasingly necessary to examine the activity of neuronal populations as opposed to individual neurons. My research is focused on basal ganglia network interactions in action selection and initiation.

Pedro Ferreira

Pedro Ferreira

Ph.D Student - IGC Oeiras / PGCN 2007

Current Projects: DNA methylation and post-translational modifications of nuclear proteins have been shown to be pivotal players in several neurobiological processes, such as synaptic plasticity and memory formation. However, the learning of skills which last a lifetime, and specially their automatization, has not been investigated relative to these biochemical mechanisms.

The aim of my project is to take an epigenetics approach to circuit neurobiology, and investigate if epigenetic changes occur in the striatum during the acquisition and consolidation of a skill. I will also investigate if the long-lasting plasticity observed during the consolidation of a skill involves specific epigenetic processes in the direct or indirect striatal output circuits, and genetically manipulate the ability to undergo epigenetic changes in the striatum.

Sara Santos

Sara Santos

Lab Techician - IGC Oeiras

Current Projects: Dopaminergic neurons from the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) and the Substantia Nigra (SN) project to different regions of the striatum and the cortex, and the specific role of VTA and SN dopamine in goal-directed actions and habits has not been clarified.

My goal is to answer this question using mice which lack the NR1 subunit of NMDA receptor, essential for dopaminergic neurons to burst.

Vitor Paixão

Vítor Paixão

Informatics Techician - IGC Oeiras

Current Projects: Design, test and implement a video tracking system for behavior experiments.
Study different statistical approaches for neural data analysis.

Xin Jin

Xin Jin


Current Projects: Organism behavior is organized as action sequences. Understanding the organization of action sequences and its neural substrate is at the core of understanding normal behavior and behavioral disorders.

My work is mainly focused on the molecular and circuit mechanisms underlying the generation, modulation and variation of action sequences.