Our research focuses on brain plasticity in its both positive and negative aspects.
By positive aspect we mean the kind of plasticity that manifests itself when the brain is re-organized in individuals who are blind or deaf. It’s a process where a part of the brain, the visual cortex for example, is re-wired to perform an old task, like reading, with a new sense, like touch, or new a task, like language or memory. Deaf and blind people have lost critical input and this has profoundly altered the way their brains work. By studying them, we can understand the forces that shape the brain.
The negative aspect of brain plasticity we are studying is the detrimental impact of air pollution on the brain development. The hypothesis we are pursuing is that air pollution disrupts the normal course of brain development. The natural process of sorting neural connections, strengthening them, is perturbed. As a result, children exposed to air pollution can experience behavioral problems, cognitive control problems in particular. This line of research combines neuroimaging with psychological assessment, environmental epidemiology and air pollution modelling, and its overarching goal is to apply neuroimaging to environmental and public health problems that our societies are facing today.