Pierre Le Merre

Postdoctoral researcher

I am interested to understand what cognition means in biological terms and how abstract cognitive variables are implemented by cortical networks such as the prefrontal cortex.

About me

I am currently a postdoc in the lab of Dr. Marie Carlén. I am interested to understand what cognition means in biological terms and how abstract cognitive variables are implemented by cortical networks such as the prefrontal cortex. Brain circuits are continuously performing neuronal computations allowing organisms to act upon hidden rules of the external world. The ability to generalize an outcome from a couple of observations, to extract the rule from a situation or to maintain in focus a specific external input are examples of abstract cognitive operations performed by many species. By studying the neuronal activity of model organisms during well controlled behavioral paradigms, we hope to reveal the neuronal correlates underlying the abstract cognitive variables. To achieve this goal we need to have a good knowledge of "the basics" i.e. how neuronal networks are anatomically arranged and how do they respond to simple sensory and motor information. 


Research description

In the lab we study the mouse prefrontal cortex (PFC). At large, the PFC still lacks a conclusive definition, and the structure and function of this brain area across species remain unresolved. The PFC is implicated in perceptual, emotional, social, motivational, and numerous other brain processes and considered to enable flexible behavior. In following, disturbed PFC functioning has been connected to most, if not all, mental disorders, including drug addiction. Present-day preclinical researchers increasingly utilize mice (Mus musculus) as model animals. However, in parallel clinical transfer of pre-clinically identified therapeutics targeting mental disorder (and other brain disorders) is still at large failing. Lack of understanding of the structure and function of the brain hampers the understanding of which findings are transferable between species. Needless to say, deciphering of the structure and function of the PFC is of great importance. To go after functional properties of the mouse PFC we use a combination of state-of-the-art techniques: viral tracing, high-density extracellular recordings (Neuropixels, silicon probes), optogenetics and high resolution behavioral tracking. With this methodology, we hope to unravel essential functional features of the mouse mPFC furthering our understanding of this mysterious brain region.

Teaching portfolio

Teaching Assistant, University of Lyon and École Normale Supérieure (64h per year).

Since 2021, I am a co-organizer of the Brain Circuit Course in KI together with Marie Carlén and Dinos Meletis.


2017 (January to June), Post-doctoral researcher at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in the lab of Carl Petersen (EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland).  

2012- 2016, PhD degree in Neurosciences : Thesis title: Cortical dynamics and sensory processing in the awake mouse - impact of the behavioral context. Thesis co-directed between the University of Lyon by Paul Salin (CRNL, Lyon, France) and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne by Carl Petersen (EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland) and Sylvain Crochet (EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland). 

2009-2012, Master’s degree of Biosciences (MSc) at the École Normale Supérieure of Lyon.

2009-2010, Agrégation des Sciences de la Vie, de la Terre et de l’Univers (french national teacher grade in Biology and Geology).

2007-2008, Bachelor’s degree in Fundamental Biology (BSc) at the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Lyon.

Academic honours, awards and prizes

2020 – StratNeuro Postdoc Grant 

2019-2021 – NARSAD Young Investigator Award (2019) 

2019, NVIDIA GPU Grant program.

2018-2019, Karolinska Institutet fonder

2015, Fellowship, International Mobility Fellowship Lyon-St Etienne (PALSE).