Maria Gueidao Costa, M.S.

Doctoral Fellow, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM)

Maria Gueidão Costa is a graduate student in neuroscience at the Neurocentre Magendie in Bordeaux, France. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from the School of Health of the Polytechnic Institute of Porto in Portugal, followed by a master’s degree in cellular and molecular biology with specialization in neurobiology at the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Coimbra, also in Portugal. During this period Costa received an Erasmus+ scholarship for a three-month internship in Trieste, Italy, as a bachelor’s student, and an Erasmus+ scholarship for an eleven-month internship at the Neurocentre Magendie to work on her master’s research project. In 2021, she was selected for a four-year doctoral fellowship from the University of the Basque Country in Spain and she enrolled in the international doctoral program in neuroscience in cotutelle agreement between the University of the Basque Country and the University of Bordeaux. Costa is particularly interested in identifying the prefrontal neural circuits that are recruited during decision-making. Her current research project aims to characterize altered sensory perception in autism and explore its neural underpinnings in the prefrontal cortex.

Principal Investigator: Andreas Frick

Fellow: Félix Joubert

Undergraduate Fellow Project: Perceptual decision-making as a marker of atypical sensory experience in genetic mouse models of autism

Atypical sensory experience affects approximately 90 percent of individuals with autism and has been recently considered a core feature of autism according to diagnostic criteria of the 5th edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Abnormal auditory perception is well documented in autism, generally including alterations in pitch perception, poor sound discrimination, increased sensitivity to loud noises, reduced auditory stimuli habituation and difficulty filtering sound in a noisy background. These features exert a significantly negative impact on social engagement, communication and learning. Recent evidence suggests that neurobiological changes associated with atypical sensory experience can manifest not only in peripheral circuits and primary sensory cortices, but also in brain regions important for top-down control of sensory information processing such as the prefrontal cortex. Our main goal is to identify auditory perceptual biomarkers for autism and investigate their underlying neurobiological mechanisms in genetic mouse models of autism. To address this we combine a sensory-based decision-making task designed to characterize auditory processing, with in vivo calcium imaging of prefrontal neuronal activity in freely moving animals. The objective is to identify circuit alterations impacting top-down control of sensory perception and, ultimately, to use these alterations as biomarkers to evaluate pharmacological therapy.

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