International Astrocyte School

dedicated to
Glia in Health and Disease

Bertinoro, Italy • 14-20 April 2024


International Astrocyte School

dedicated to
Glia in Health and Disease

Bertinoro, Italy • 14-20 April 2024

IAS 2022

International Astrocyte School

dedicated to
Glia in Health and Disease

Bertinoro, Italy
14-20 April 2024



The International Astrocyte School is aimed at all those who are attracted by the most intriguing hypotheses on the role of astrocytes and other glial cells in brain function and dysfunction and wish to learn how to best approach these problems. The school, with its strategy of disseminating state-of-the-art knowledge, is especially targeted at young scientists beginning their careers in this field, but is also open to senior scientists wishing to refresh their glial background.

A hallmark of our School is the debate of intriguing concepts, often with contradictory data in current literature. One of the aims of the School is to critically evaluate the available data and possible interpretations, following rigorous and unbiased scientific approaches. Every year, the IAS Agora brings students and faculty together to discuss selected themes, in an open and informal fashion (when possible in the beautiful context of an open-air amphitheatre).

Agora session
Important dates

Application deadline:
15 December 2023

Notification of selections:
15 January 2024

Selected applicants must confirm their acceptance by:
22 January 2024

23 February 2024

Executive Board

Alfonso Araque

Alfonso Araque
(Minneapolis, MN, USA)

Giorgio Carmignoto

Giorgio Carmignoto
(Padua, Italy)

Richard Robitaille

Richard Robitaille
(Montréal, Canada)

Paulo Magalhaes

Paulo Magalhães
(Padua, Italy)

2024 Faculty

Amit Agarwal (Heidelberg, Germany)

Alfonso Araque (Minneapolis, MN, USA)

Giorgio Carmignoto (Padua, Italy)

Elly Hol (Utrecht, Netherlands)

Matthew Holt (Oporto, Portugal)

Frank Kirchhoff (Homburg, Germany)

Kerstin Lenk (Graz, Austria)

Giovanni Marsicano (Bordeaux, France)

Keith Murai (Montréal, QC, Canada)

Rosa C. Paolicelli (Lausanne, Switzerland)

Richard Robitaille (Montréal, QC, Canada)

Amit Agarwal

Amit Agarwal is the Chica and Heinz Schaller Research Group Leader at the Institute for Anatomy and Cell Biology, Heidelberg University, Germany. He received his Ph.D. in neurosciences, at the Max-Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine, Göttingen, Germany with Dr. Klaus-Armin Nave. He performed his post-doctoral training from 2010 to 2017, in the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University, USA with Dr. Dwight Bergles. The Agarwal laboratory uses optophysiology and in vivo multiphoton microscopic techniques, single-cell genetics, mouse transgenics, and computational methodologies to decipher cellular connectivity and molecular pathways by which neurons and glia interact, interconnect and integrate into the neural networks. The focal aim of his laboratory is to understand the functional significance of these neuron-glia connections in the neural circuits, and their role in cognition, learning, and memory; and study how disturbances in these fine cellular interactions can contribute to various neurological and psychiatric disorders ranging from multiple sclerosis to autism.

Alfonso Araque

Alfonso Araque is Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota since 2013. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1993 in Biological Sciences at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He did his postdoctoral research with Dr Phil Haydon at the Iowa State University, Ames, USA, from 1996 to 1999, studying astrocyte-neuron communication in cultured cells. He established his independent laboratory in 2001 at the Cajal Institute in Madrid, Spain, where he continued to study the properties and mechanisms of the reciprocal communication between neurons and astrocytes. He was Coordinator of the Biomedicine area of the National Agency for Evaluation and Prospective in Spain, Vice-President of the Spanish Society for Neuroscience. He is editorial board member of Cell Calcium, Glia and eNeuro. His major contributions include: the first demonstration of astrocyte-induced slow inward currents (SIC) mediated by calcium and SNARE-protein dependent glutamate release from astrocytes; the ability of astrocytes to discriminate between the activity of different synapses and to integrate those inputs, which indicate that astrocytes show integrative properties for synaptic information processing; the existence of new forms of neuron-astrocyte signaling mediated by endocannabinoids; the ability of astrocytes to regulate synaptic transmitter release at single hippocampal synapses; the existence of a form of long-term potentiation (LTP) of synaptic transmission induced by the temporal coincidence of astrocytic and postsynaptic signalling; the ability of endocannabinoids to potentiate synaptic transmission through stimulation of astrocytes; the involvement of astrocytes in the cholinergic-induced LTP in vivo; and the circuit- and synapse-specific astrocyte-neuron signaling in the striatum.

Giorgio Carmignoto

Dr Giorgio Carmignoto is group leader at the Institute of Neurosciences which belongs to the National Research Council (CNR), the main public research organisation in Italy. He is also associated with the Department of Biomedical Sciences of the University of Padua. The central theme of his research is the specific signalling between neurons and astrocytes investigated by laser-scanning microscope living cell imaging and patch-clamp recording techniques. Among obtained results are the first evidence for the ability of astrocytes i) to be activated by neurotransmitter synaptic release in slice preparations; ii) to work as principal mediators of neurovascular coupling; iii) to generate neuronal synchrony by acting on extrasynaptic NMDA receptors. His research is now focused on the role of astrocytes in epilepsy.

Elly Hol

Elly Hol is professor of “Glia biology of brain diseases” at the Utrecht University, head of the department of Translational Neuroscience at the University Medical Center Utrecht, and a member of the Academia Europaea. Her research is focused on the role of glial cells in brain diseases. The overall aim is to elucidate the molecular and functional changes in glia that contribute to the pathogenesis of neurological and psychiatric diseases. Her work is translational and includes studies on glial cells in human post-mortem brain tissue, in human cell models, and in mouse models for brain diseases. Elly was trained as a medical biologist with a specialization in molecular neurobiology. After her PhD in Utrecht, she obtained a Max-Planck Fellowship to work at the Max-Planck-Institute for Psychiatry in Martinsried. In 1997, she started as a post-doc at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam, and between 2003 and 2013 she headed the group “Astrocyte Biology & Neurodegeneration”. As of 2013 she works as a principal investigator at the department of translational neuroscience, UMC Utrecht Brain Center. She is in the editorial board of Glia, member of the scientific advisory board of Alzheimer Nederland, chair of the scientific advisory board of Parkinson Nederland, chair of GliaNed, director of the Neuroscience Master and PhD program of the Utrecht University Graduate School of Life Sciences, and director of education Division Neuroscience at the UMCU.

Matthew Holt

Matthew Holt received his B.Sc. (Hons) in Applied Biochemistry from the University of Liverpool, followed by doctoral studies on the physiology of neurotransmission at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. After his Ph.D., Dr. Holt worked on aspects of synaptic vesicle structure and function at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany. He is currently the ERA Chair for Neurobiology in Portugal, based at the Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde (i3S) in Oporto, where he leads the 'Synapse biology group' investigating aspects of astrocyte heterogeneity and how this affects synapse astrocyte-neuron interactions across brain regions and synapse types. He has won numerous awards during his career, including multiple European Research Council (ERC) grants and is also an editor for the journal Glia. As well as academic duties, Dr. Holt is also head of the NCBio Biotechnology hub for northern Portugal. A major translational spin-off from his work has been the design and exploitation of novel blood-brain barrier crossing viral vector systems for gene delivery, which allow sustained local production and secretion of therapeutics from CNS cells — the so-called 'biopharmacy' concept, which is currently being commercialized by Aila Biotech.

Frank Kirchhoff

Frank Kirchhoff is Chair of the Department of Molecular Physiology at the University of Saarland in Homburg, Germany. He studied biochemistry at the University of Hannover, received his PhD degree in neurobiology from the University of Heidelberg and habilitated in biochemistry at the Free University of Berlin. After postdoctoral periods at the University of Heidelberg and the Max-Delbrück-Centrum for Molecular Medicine, Berlin, he started his research group ‘Glial Physiology and Imaging’ at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine, Department of Neurogenetics in Göttingen in 2000. In 2009, he was appointed as full professor at the University of Saarland. He is Editorial Board Member of GLIA and Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy. His research addresses the molecular and cellular mechanisms of neuron-glia interactions using transgenic mouse models and in vivo-imaging. He developed a series of transgenic mice with cell-type specific fluorescent protein or inducible cre DNA recombinase expression in various glial cells. These mice appeared as valuable tools to study the structural dynamics of glial cells and the function of glial transmitter receptors in vivo.

Kerstin Lenk

Kerstin Lenk is assistant professor of Computational Neuroscience at the Graz University of Technology in Austria. She has received a PhD in Computer Science from the Clausthal University of Technology in Germany. Her first postdoc was in bioinformatics at the DFG-Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden at TU Dresden in Germany. For her second postdoc, she received a fellowship from the Academy of Finland for the three years project “Simulation of local calcium dynamics in human single-cell astrocytes and neuron-astrocyte networks.” Her lab focuses on the development of computational single-cell astrocyte and neuron-astrocyte network models. Moreover, her group performs in vitro experiments with rodent neuron-astrocyte networks and RNA-Seq data analysis from human pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons and astrocytes. Their research aims to understand the neuron-astrocyte interaction in healthy conditions and pathologies like epilepsy and schizophrenia.

Giovanni Marsicano

Dr. Giovanni Marsicano is a tenured researcher at Inserm. He leads the group “Endocannabinoids and Neuroadaptation” at the NeuroCentre Magendie, an INSERM and University of Bordeaux Research Center devoted to neuroscience. Dr. Marsicano is a Veterinary Medicine Doctor as formation. After his diploma, he worked on research related to Embryonic Stem Cells from farm animals and to xenotransplantation models in Italy for 4 years. He then moved to the Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich for a PhD student position, where he initiated the work on the role of type-1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1) and of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in brain physiology, which since has been his main research interest. The subject of his PhD thesis was the generation of conditional mutants for CB1 and anatomical and functional studies on the mechanisms of action of the ECS. After PhD graduation in 2001, he made two post-doctoral periods in Germany and moved to Bordeaux in 2006 (recruited as Inserm senior scientist in 2007) to lead his independent research group. He is member of the SfN, the French Society of Neuroscience, the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) and of the International Society of Neurochemistry (ISN). By using conditional mutagenesis in mice and behavioral, biochemical and electrophysiological tools, his work contributed defining the role of CB1 in specific cell populations in learning and memory, food intake and energy balance, anxiety, stress-coping and others. Through a clear bottom-up scientific approach, these studies allowed exploring some general principles of brain functioning, such as the balance between excitation and inhibition, the interactions between the brain and the periphery, the importance of energy metabolism in brain functions and, more recently, the interaction glial-neurons. In 2012, by generating conditional mutant mice lacking CB1 receptors from GFAP-positive cells, he contributed to define the role of astroglial CB1 receptors in the working memory effects of cannabinoids and on their in vivo electrophysiological correlates. Since then, the role of astroglial CB1 receptors became one of the most important lines of research in his group. In particular, published and ongoing studies deal with the impact of CB1 receptors on gliotransmission and bioenergetic functions of astrocytes. Dr. Marsicano will present a brief critical analysis of advantages and limitations of behavioral approaches in neuroscience and will summarize the recent results of his team concerning the roles of astroglial CB1 receptors in brain functions.

Keith Murai

Keith Murai is the Director of the Centre for Research in Neuroscience at McGill University, Leader of the Brain Repair and Integrative Neuroscience (BRaIN) Program at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, and Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University. His research focuses on: (1) Understanding how neurons and astrocytes cooperate to regulate brain development, cellular heterogeneity, and homeostasis, and (2) Discovering mechanism that regulate the plasticity of synapses that underlie memory formation and cognition. His research group also interlaces preclinical models of Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease to better understand how specific neuronal and glial pathways become disrupted under pathological conditions and how activating/inhibiting specific pathways can protect the diseased or injured brain. His laboratory uses advanced genetic, imaging (light and electron microscopy), physiological, and optogenetic techniques and has pioneered approaches for understanding glial cells in brain function.

Rosa Paolicelli

Rosa C. Paolicelli is an Assistant Professor at the University of Lausanne. Rosa obtained an M.Sc. in Molecular Neuroscience at the University of Bristol, UK, in 2007. She completed her predoctoral studies at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Italy, with a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology in 2011, under the supervision of Cornelius Gross. She moved then to Switzerland, to work as a postdoc at the University of Zurich in the Laboratory of Systems and Cell Biology of Neurodegeneration, with Lawrence Rajendran. Since 2018, Rosa leads the Microglia Biology lab, at the Department of Biomedical Sciences, at the University of Lausanne. Her research focuses on the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the specific microglial contribution to brain functioning, in physiological as well as pathological contexts. In particular, she is interested in understanding the role of microglia in synaptic pruning.
Rosa's lab has also recently started to investigate the metabolic control of microglial function in brain development and neurodegeneration, with a special focus on lactate metabolism.

Richard Robitaille

Richard Robitaille is a Professor in the Département de neurosciences at Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada. He is the director of the research group on the central nervous system (GRSNC) at Université de Montréal. He received his Ph.D. in 1989 in Neurobiology at Université Laval with Dr Jacques P. Tremblay. He did his post-doctoral training with Dr Milton P. Charlton in the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto from 1989 to 1993. He then started his independent research activities in 1993 at Université de Montréal where he stayed since. He received number of national and international awards at all stages of his career. He is an associate editor for the journal Glia and Current Opinion in Physiology. His research focuses on the role of glial cells in the regulation of synaptic functions in normal as well as in pathological conditions. He uses mammalian neuromuscular junctions and acute brain slices as experimental models. He addresses the role of glial cells in the regulation of basal synaptic transmission and the regulation of synaptic plasticity. He also studies the contribution of glial cells in the outcome of synaptic competition, during aging and in ALS.

Past editions of the School

IAS 2023 • 26 March - 1 April 2023

IAS 2022 • 3-9 April 2022

IAS 2021 • Online, 14-16 April & 24-26 November  2021

IAS 2019 • 7-13 April 2019

IAS 2018 • 15-21 April 2018

IAS 2017 • 26 March - 1 April 2017

IAS 2016 • 10-16 April 2016

IAS 2015 • 12-18 April 2015

IAS 2014 • 6-12 April 2014

IAS 2013 • 17-23 March 2013

IAS 2012 • 25-31 March 2012

IAS 2011 • 27 March - 3 April 2011