Principal Investigator

Sylvain Williams

Sylvain Williams, PhD

I completed my PhD at the University of Montreal in 1994 under the supervision of Jean-Claude Lacaille. At that time, the aim of my project was in understanding the interactions of GABAergic interneurons and principal neurons in hippocampus using electrophysiology. This is where I got very interested in understanding how neural circuits would give rise to theta rhythm, a type of oscillation critical for learning and memory.

I then obtained a postdoctoral position in Geneva Switzerland to investigate the circuits located in the medial septum that were responsible for generating hippocampal theta rhythm generation. Since 1999, my lab has focused initially at the cellular and local circuit level to reveal the mechanisms underlying memory-dependent oscillations but more recently we have turned our attention to in vivo experimentation to understand how population of neurons give rise to memory. I am full professor at the department of Psychiatry at McGill University and associate member of the department of neurology and neurosurgery. I have been very active as a reviewer for provincial, national and international review committees.

Research Associates

Frederic Manseau

Dr. Frederic Manseau

I joined the laboratory of Dr S. Williams as a postdoctoral fellow. During this time, I developed a novel type of in vitro preparation including the “complete” hippocampus, either isolated or still connected with the septum area. I used this preparation, preserving much of the in vivo organization of neuronal networks, in combination with multielectrode electrophysiological recording of local field potentials (LFPs), single cell activity from identified neurons and local pharmacology, as an alternative and useful tool for studying self-generated activity, such as the “theta” oscillations (frequency band: 4-12 Hz) involved in rhythmic encoding of hippocampal information and memory formation. During my second postdoc, I studied the activity and synaptic interactions of excitatory and inhibitory neurons in vitro using advanced electrophysiology (dual patch-clamp recording) and pharmacological approaches. More precisely, I examined the role of fast-spiking (FS) interneurons, which are self-connected by functional GABAergic autapses, in coordinating synchrony in neocortical circuits. I am now working with Dr Williams as an associate researcher, where I carry on research in collaboration with other members of the lab concerning neuronal networks involved in rhythmic oscillations of the hippocampus and their role in learning and memory.

Bruno Rivard


Dr. Bruno Rivard

I design and make calcium imaging miniscopes for the laboratory. I studied psychology at McGill university in Montreal and cognitive neuroscience at the university of Bristol, UK where I designed the Versadrive line of tetrode microdrive implants. I then commercialized them from facilities in Brooklyn, NY. Most recently I was senior scientist fpr research and development working on color 3D printing before coming to Sylvain Williams laboratory.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Jean-Sebastien Bott

 Dr. Jean-Sébastien Bott

I joined Dr. Sylvain Williams’s laboratory as a postodctoral fellow after a PhD at the university of Strasbourg (France). I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology as well as my master in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Strasbourg (France). My goal is to understand how brains networks generate, store and use memories to fit environmental challenges. My ongoing projects focus on how glutamatergic and cholinergic neurons from the medial septum contribute to hippocampal cell assemblies formation, stabilization and adaptations in freely behaving mice during various learning using combination of calcium imaging, optogenetic manipulations and electrophysiology. Also, I collaborate to the development of a new imaging device for simultaneous multi-regional calcium imaging in freely-behaving mice to explore brain hemispheric cooperation during memory processes.

San San Chee

 Dr. San San Chee

I joined the Williams laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow in 2015. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta, and my PhD at Queen’s University under the supervision of Dr. Janet Menard. I am interested in the role of the septal nucleus in learning and memory. I am using optogeneticsto delineate the role of these septal cells in various behavioral paradigms.

Guillaume Etter

 Dr. Guillaume Etter

I joined the Williams lab in 2015 after completing a BSc in Psychology from the University of Strasbourg, the Joint Master in Neuroscience (Strasbourg (France), Friburg (Germany), and Basel (Switzerland)), and a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Strasbourg.. Currently, I am interested in how the brain forms representations of our world. In particular, I have been focusing on understanding how several levels of spatial representations are formed in the hippocampal network using in vivo calcium imaging using miniscopes and fiber bundles, combined to electrophysiological recordings and optogenetics during wakefulness and sleep, as representations can be replayed in absence of interactions with the outside world. I also look at the quality of these representations in Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy mice models (loss of function) and during optogenetic deep brain stimulation of the medial septum (gain of function)

Junil Kang

Dr. Junil Kang

I received my bachelor degree at Handong University in South Korea and went to the graduate school of Neuroscience in University of Montreal. During my Phd program, while I was studying learning induced cortical plasticity, I was interested in what orchestrates such change to convert sensory information into memory. When I joined the laboratory of Dr. Williams as postdoctoral fellow, we decided to approach this question by investigating the memory consolidation mechanism in the hippocampus, the hub center for memory formation. For this purpose, I use optogenetics for precise control of hippocampal projecting neurons and electrophysiology to record brain activities during and after learning in multiple regions. Further analysis involves advanced mathematical tools such as multivariate Granger causality, transfer of entropy or machine/deep learning to decode the complex network between hippocampal regions.

Lorene Penazzi

Dr. Lorène Penazzi

I joined Dr. Sylvain Williams’s laboratory as a postodctoral fellow in 2016 after completing a BSc in psychology from Nancy II University (France), a MSc in Psychology and Cognitive Neurosciences from Strasbourg University (France) and a PhD thesis in Molecular Biology from the University of Osnabrück (Germany). My research goal is to determine the key cellular players responsible for the progressive transition from healthy aging to dementia. In this direction,  my aim is to determine the exact functions of OLM interneurons in the regulation of dorsal hippocampal principal cell assembly dynamics during learning and memory, both under physiological and pathological aging. Among the techniques I use, I am performing in vivo calcium imaging using miniscopes combined with chemogenetic inhibition of OLM interneurons activity. I also collaborated on additional projects such as the development of a new imaging device for simultaneous multi-brain region calcium imaging in freely-behaving mice.

Ph.D. Students

Polina Ash

 Polina Ash, M.Sc.

I am a PhD student in the Integrated Program in Neuroscience at McGill and co-supervised by Sylvain Williams and Lalit Srivastava. I joined the lab in 2015 after completing a BSc in Molecular/Cellular Biology and BA in Psychology and Analytic Philosophy from University of Colorado in Colorado Springs (USA). With the aim of deciphering the role of the ventral hippocampus to mPFC circuit in emotional processing and memory, I am utilizing optogenetics and various behavioral paradigms (and in the future, in-vivo electrophysiology and calcium imaging) to understand how anatomical segregation of inputs supports functional specialization.

Jisu Choi

 Jisu Choi, M.Sc.

I obtained a bachelor’s degree in physics from Chosun University and a master’s degree in medical system engineering from Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in Korea. I am currently investigating the role of neuronal assemblies in memory during wake and sleep. I use the miniature microscope for calcium imaging in awake and sleep in order to trace dynamic change of neural activities associated with the cognitive map. My ultimate goal is to understand the mechanism of memory in normal and in disease state, and, further, to devote my life to addressing the challenges of incurable diseases in the field of neuropsychiatry.

Ingrid Inema

 Ingrid Inema, M.Sc.

After completing my masters at NYU with György Buzsáki, I joined the Williams lab for my doctoral studies with the IntegratedProgram in Neuroscience at McGill University in the fall of 2015.I am interested in the relationships between different brain regions working in concert to achieve complex cognitive feats such as memory. In my current project, I am using electrophysiology and calcium imaging to understand the contribution of the subiculum in storing and retrieving information in hippocampus-dependent memories.

Suzanne Van Der Velt

 Suzanne Van Der Velt, M.Sc.

I joined the Williams laboratory as a PhD student of the Integrated Program in Neuroscience of McGill in July 2017. I earned my joint MSc from Charité University in Berlin and Bordeaux University, where I learned optogenetics and in-vivo electrophysiology under the supervision of Dr. Tatiana Korotkova. I am now using calcium imaging to investigate the role of the septum in spatial navigation and memory processes.To address these and other questions, I wish to integrate sophisticated behavioral approaches with the cutting-edge neural circuit dissection tools available at the Williams lab.

Eva Vico Varela

Eva Vico Varela, M.Sc.

I am a PhD candidate in the Williams lab as part of the Integrated Program in Neuroscience of McGill. I earned my bachelors in cognitive science from the University of Leeds (UK), and my masters in neuroscience from the UniversdadAutonoma de Barcelona (Spain) where I studied the effects of intracranial self-stimulation in memory with Dr. Segura. In the Williams lab, I’m using electrical deep brain stimulation, optogenetics, in vivo electrophysiology and various behavioral paradigms to investigate memory deficits and possible rescue in a mice model of Alzheimer’s disease.

M.Sc. Student

Aurelie Ky

 Aurelie Ky, B.Sc.

I am studying the role of glutamatergic neurons in the medial septum in mice using calcium imaging to determine their function during locomotion tasks. I joined the Williams’ lab in September 2017 as my interests have mostly revolved around memory and neuropathology. I previously completed a B.Sc. in Neuroscience and a B.A. in Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.

Research Associates

Ke Cui

 Ke Cui

I have been in Dr. Williams lab since January 2017, working as a research assistant. I currently help ordering and managing lab stuff, take care of several mouse colonies and help the lab members with different lab technics, including genotyping, immunohistochemistry, etc.