R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências da Saúde

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Morfologia Experimental [HESC-Norte-Porto-121] visitada em 02/02/2008

Classificação: Very Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
The Unit organization is defined on the basis of five PhD-projects that are carried out, two of which on the basis of FCT grants, and three by junior researchers that have been appointed by the Faculty and have a major task in teaching medical students. The supervisors of these PhD-students, selected on the basis of their expertise, are PI’s or members of one of the five research groups in different combinations. This organization is consistent with the fact that this Unit is characterized by one strong common research program so that all the different groups represent specific projects rather than separate groups with very distinct lines of research. This may be considered a strong asset of this Unit: common programmatic objectives and a common technical support. The Panel advises that in the future this essential feature of this Unit could be presented in a more evident form.
It has little sense to give separate evaluation scores for the different groups, and a global evaluation is justified.
The main research line can be summarized as the study of different aspects of neuroplasticity with a strong emphasis on the morphological (morphometric) questions ranging from the level of the dendrite to that of the neuronal network, and with physiological and behavioural dimensions. The panel considers that the Unit would benefit from concentrating the research for the entire Unit according to the following topics:
(1) neuronal oxidative stress (including alcohol and related issues) and the brain,
(2) hormonal effects (a) on neural development, aging and disease, (b) and on neuro-cognitive functions.
The Unit has very good expertise in the development and application of morphological (morphometric), electrophysiological and behavioural approaches. The equipment like microscopes, Morris water maze and software for analyzing behavioural results, is basic but adequate. Yet, the Unit could greatly benefit from having more state-of-the-art equipment like a Neurolucida system. However, the restricted budget appears not to allow the purchase of a more up-to-date apparatus of this kind at this moment. The Panel advises that the Unit could profit by establishing collaborations with foreign groups where this system is currently available by sending PhD students abroad for short stays, the expenses of which should be covered by FCT.
The large majority of the papers produced by the Unit in the preceding period appeared in peer reviewed journals with IF between 2 and 5. These are good/very good specialized journals in the field of the Neurosciences. One may wonder whether the researchers did not present their results in journals with a higher IF within the field of the Neurosciences (ex Nature Neuroscience, J of Neuroscience, and Brain). Anyway, the Unit should be encouraged to do so.

It became clear during the site visit that all senior staff members (PhD’s) have a major teaching task and that the time for research is rather limited. It was difficult to establish the precise input, in terms of time for research that in reality can be spent in this task by the staff, but it may be estimated to be 50% of their time at most. This information should be made clearer by the Unit in their reports, since it is important to know what the research input is in order to appreciate correctly the corresponding output in terms of publications or other products. In view of the fact that not only the permanent staff but also three of the five PhD-students have a major teaching task, the productivity of the group can be assessed more positively than it appeared at first sight to be the case.

During the visit we were pleased to meet a strongly motivated, science driven competent group of senior researchers and an equally strongly motivated group of young researchers (PhD’s) and (master) students. Nonetheless, in general, the group seems to operate in too much isolation and all staff members, but especially the PhD students would strongly benefit from more exchange with other research groups, locally, but, more important, internationally.

The contribution in terms of training can be considered a good average in the past period. We met five PhD-students that appear to be good on track, and a number of M.Sc. and other students that actively participate in the research of the Unit.

On the whole, the entire unit would benefit by considering, in the near future, the use of new techniques, namely cell-culture facilities and the introduction of molecular and cell biological approaches, possibly combined with cellular physiology, as in integral part of the research program. Also the use of transgenic mice, instead of rats as animal models, where possible, will almost certainly increase the impact of the group’s research. Such developments imply, of course, extra investments in Post-Docs with expertise in these areas.
In summary, in judging the research Unit as a whole the output (productivity) may be rated as very good. The productivity and relevance of the work would benefit from the introduction of more state-of-the-art methodological approaches and by entertaining systematic international collaborations and exchange visits with foreign scientists.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Age Effects on the Female Hippocampal Formation [RG-X-HESC-Norte-Porto-121-2505]
Behavioral Effects of Damage to Retrosplenial Area [RG-X-HESC-Norte-Porto-121-2534]
Effects of Alcohol Intake and Withdrawal in the Brain [RG-X-HESC-Norte-Porto-121-2525]
Effects of Polyphenols in the Rat Brain during Ethanol Consumption and Aging [RG-X-HESC-Norte-Porto-121-2541]
Estrogens and Synaptic Plasticity in the Mature Brain [RG-HESC-Norte-Porto-121-2476]
Influence of the Cyclically Fluctuating levels of Sex steroids in the Structural Organization of the Cerebellar Nuclei [RG-X-HESC-Norte-Porto-121-2512]
Neurotrophins and Brain [RG-HESC-Norte-Porto-121-2519]
Neurotrophins and Peptide Synthesis in the SCN [RG-X-HESC-Norte-Porto-121-2531]
Nutritional Deprivations in the Adult Rat Brain [RG-HESC-Norte-Porto-121-2539]
Plasticity of Neuronal Circuits in the Limbic Cortex [RG-HESC-Norte-Porto-121-2533]
Stress and Alcohol in the Brain [RG-HESC-Norte-Porto-121-2517]