October 8th, 2021

The Role of Molecular and Animal Neuroscience in Psychological Research

09h30 – Opening of the Series

  • Jorge Almeida
    Co-Organizer; Associate Professor, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Coimbra
  • Paula Paixão
    Director of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Coimbra

09h45 – Opening remarks

  • Óscar Gonçalves
    Co-Organizer; Full Professor of Psychology, University of Coimbra

10h00 – How molecular and animal behavioral and neuroscience models can help Psychological Science – Genetics and Organoids

  • 10h00 – Patrícia Maciel
    Associate Professor, ICVS – Life and Health Sciences Research Institute, University of Minho, Portugal. Expert in neurogenetics.
  • 10h40 – João Peça
    Assistant Professor, CNC – Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology, Coimbra, Portugal. Expert in molecular neuroscience and autism.
  • 11h20 – Lezanne Ooi
    Associate Professor and NHMRC Boosting Dementia Research Leadership Fellow University of Wollongong. Expert in Cerebral Organoids and Dementia.


12h00 – 14h00
Lunch break

14h00 – How molecular and animal behavioral and neuroscience models can help Psychological Science – Animal models

  • 14h00 – Armando Machado
    Full Professor in Psychology, University of Aveiro, Portugal. Expert in Animal Learning and Behavior
  • 14h40 – Rui Oliveira
    Full Professor in Psychobiology, ISPA, Lisbon; Expert in Animal behavior and neuroscience
  • 15h20 – Jessica Cantlon
    Ronald J. and Mary Ann Zdrojkowski Professor of Developmental Neuroscience, Associate Professor of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Expert in cognitive neuroscience, and the evolution of conceptual knowledge

16h00 – Closing Remarks

  • Cláudia Cavadas
    Vice-Rector for Research, University of Coimbra

The first series of NeoPsych was held on October 8th, 2021. Below is the list of the invited speakers.

Patrícia Maciel
Associate Professor, ICVS – Life and Health Sciences Research Institute, University of Minho, Portugal. Expert in neurogenetics.

Genetics of human neurodevelopmental disorders: a window into the building blocks of human behavior

Patrícia Maciel obtained a B.Sc. in Biochemistry (1993) and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences – Genetics (1998) at the University of Porto, having developed her thesis work at Hôpital Necker-Enfants Malades, France, and at the Centre for Research in Neuroscience, McGill University, Canada.
Dr. Maciel is currently an Associate Professor at the School of Medicine, Director of the MSc program in Health Sciences and Senior Researcher at ICVS, where she develops work in the field of Neurogenetics, focusing on molecular mechanisms of neuronal dysfunction and the development of novel therapies for human neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental diseases. Starting from gene identification in human patients, her team uses molecular biology approaches to develop disease models using cultured cells, C. elegans and mice, which, once validated, can be used to understand disease mechanisms, search for therapeutic targets and test the efficacy of therapeutic strategies – based on novel synthetic molecules, natural products and repurposed drugs.
Dr. Maciel has built a network of collaborations within the neurodevelopmental genetics field, integrating large collaborative efforts towards causative gene identification in intellectual disability and autism, and collaborated with different labs worldwide in the study of the molecular mechanisms of Machado-Joseph disease. In recent years her lab has established collaborations with several pharmaceutical companies to test novel therapeutic agents, having performed more than 15 preclinical trials with mouse models of neurodegenerative diseases, and more recently also of neurodevelopmental disorders. Her work has led to over 130 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals, with an H-index of 34 (Researcher ID). She has supervised 20 PhD students and 18 MSc students to thesis completion.
In addition to serving as reviewer for over 30 scientific journals and for national and international funding entities, Dr. Maciel integrates the Inter-Ministerial Committee for an Integrated Strategy for Rare Diseases, the Policy Board of the European Joint Programme on Rare Diseases, and has served as Expert and Rapporteur for the National Agenda for Research and Development promoted by FCT.


João Peça
Assistant Professor, CNC – Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology, Coimbra, Portugal. Expert in molecular neuroscience and autism.

Neuroimmune challenges in autism and ADHD

João Peça is Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Coimbra. He completed his Ph.D. at Duke University in 2011, where he created and used the first transgenic mice for channelrhodopsin-2 in optogenetic-assisted dissection of neuronal circuitry. In 2011, he moved to MIT as a postdoc and characterized the Shank3 animal models for autism, uncovering a new role for cortico-striatal dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders. In 2013 he was awarded a position as “FCT Investigator” and, in 2018 started an independent group as Principal Investigator at the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology, University of Coimbra. As main advisor (co-advisor), he has completed the supervision of 3 (+2) Ph.D. students thesis and the supervision of 10 (+1) M.Sc. students. He is/was Principal investigator/Scientist-in-charge in 8 projects, co-PI in 6, and member of the research team in 2 research projects. Present interests of his group at the University of Coimbra, center on using advanced models to understand how synaptic computations give rise to neuropsychiatric and developmental disorders and uncover how genetic and environmental elements translate into abnormal network activity. To achieve this, he uses a combination of molecular genetics, optogenetics and electrophysiological approaches using animal models and human brain organoids. To date João Peça has accrued >3200 citations and has led to primary research papers in high-impact, peer-reviewed journals, including Nature, Nature Communications, PNAS, and Neuron, and review work in Current Opinion in Neurobiology, Cell and Annual Reviews in Neuroscience. As a PI he was named “FCT Investigator”, was awarded a Marie Curie Career Integration Grant, a NARSAD Young Investigator Award, and a prize from the Gulbenkian Foundation. In 2020 he received an IBRO Early Career Award. His recent work was also acknowledged with the “2019 Pfizer Prize” in Basic Research, the oldest and one of the most prestigious prizes in Portugal in the area of Biomedical Sciences. His group is composed of 5 PhD holding members and is funded by grants and awards from FCT, H2020, Bial Foundation, Takeda, IBRO and Pfizer.


Lezanne Ooi
Associate Professor and NHMRC Boosting Dementia Research Leadership Fellow University of Wollongong. Expert in Cerebral Organoids and Dementia.

Using stem cells and organoids to explore psychological science – lessons from neurodegenerative diseases

Associate Professor Lezanne Ooi is currently a Principal Research Fellow and Group Leader of the Neurodevelopment and Neurodegeneration Lab at the University of Wollongong, Australia. Her research speciality is cellular neuroscience and the regulation of neuronal function in neurodegenerative disease. Her lab has generated >100 induced pluripotent stem cell lines for disease modelling and drug discovery for Alzheimer’s disease, motor neurone disease and vanishing white matter disease and uses electrophysiology, imaging and a range of cell and molecular biology techniques. Her work has a strong focus on clinical translation through the use of induced pluripotent stem cells for
disease modelling, drug discovery and discovery of neuroprotective genes.


Armando Machado
Full Professor in Psychology, University of Aveiro, Portugal. Expert in Animal Learning and Behavior

The behavioristic approach: A century in retrospect… and prospect

After his PhD, Armando joined Indiana University as an Assistant and then a tenured Associate professor. In 2000 he moved to the University of Minho where he became Full professor, and in 2019 he moved to the University of Aveiro. Armando’s research focuses on temporal learning, numerical discrimination, choice, and decision making in animals. In most of his studies, he contrasts data with the predictions of simple mathematical models of behavior. In 2010 he received the Research Merit Award from the School of Psychology, and in 2014 he received the Scientific Merit Award from the University of Minho. He was the President of the American Society for the Quantitative Analysis of Behavior, and the first president of the Portuguese Association of Experimental Psychology.


Rui Oliveira
Full Professor in Psychobiology, ISPA, Lisbon; Expert in Animal behavior and neuroscience

Of fish and flies: using model organisms to uncover the mechanisms of social cognition

Rui Oliveira (born 22.02.1966), Ph.D. 1996 (University of Lisbon), habilitation 2004 (University of Algarve) Assistant Professor in Biological Sciences 1996 (ISPA, Lisboa), Associate Professor in Biological Sciences 2001 (ISPA, Lisboa), Full Professor in Psychobiology 2007 (ISPA, Lisbon), Principal Investigator at the Gulbenkian Science Institute 2012 (IGC, Oeiras) and Adjunct Faculty of the Champalimaud Neuroscience Program 2007 (CNP, Lisboa). Key qualifications in the field of Animal Behaviour and Cognition, Neuroendocrinology and Genomics. During the last years he has been involved in research within the field of behavioural neuroendocrinology and behavioural genomics. Main fields of interests are (1) the neuroendocrinology and genomics of social behaviour, (2) the evolution and mechanisms underlying behavioural plasticity (including alternative mating tactics), and (3) comparative social cognition. He leads a research group of 3 post-docs, 5 Ph.D. students, 2 lab technicians and variable numbers of M.Sc. and undergraduate students. He has experience in teaching (Neuroscience and Behaviour courses to Psychology undergraduate and Master students and advanced Neuroscience and Behaviour topics for the Gulbenkian and Champalimaud Ph.D. Programmes), supervising, refereeing and evaluation of scientific research (e.g. member of the European Research Council experts panel for the evaluation of research proposals, ad-hoc reviewer for NSF and NIH Programs). He is the Director of the Post-Graduate Program in Psychobiology at ISPA. He is also the coordinator of three ongoing research grants at the national level and participates in two international research networks (FP7 in Europe and CNPq in Brazil). He is the past President of the Portuguese Ethological Society (SPE) and was the founder Chief-Editor of the journal Acta Ethologica (Springer-Verlag). He served as Associate Editor of the journals Hormones and Behavior, and Animal Behaviour (Elsevier) and acted as Guest Editor for a thematic issue at Frontiers in Behaviora


Jessica Cantlon
Ronald J. and Mary Ann Zdrojkowski Professor of Developmental Neuroscience, Associate Professor of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Expert in cognitive neuroscience, and the evolution of conceptual knowledge

Evolutionary, Developmental, and Cultural Universals of Mathematical Thought

Primates have been using quantitative logic for millions of years. Humans share many cognitive systems with other primates, but they are unique in their capacity for symbolic counting and logic. These uniquely human constructs interact with primitive systems of numerical reasoning. In this talk, I discuss how evolution shapes human numerical concepts through constraints on human perception and cognition, neural homologies among primates, and interactions between uniquely human concepts and primitive processes.

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