Patricia Pais

Alumni of the Department High-Field Magnetic Resonance
Alumni of the Research Group Translational Neuroimaging

Main Focus

My current research focus is the multimodal characterization of coma in rats. I use electrophysiology, functional MRI, optogenetics and calcium imaging, together with behavioral assessment, to investigate the mechanisms of coma induction and recovery.

Development and characterization of the coma state in the rat brain.


Zebrafish as a target for high Magnetic Fields.

Figure 1. Zebrafish larvae at 2 days post fertilization.

2015-2018: Study of the rat brain during the coma state.

Coma is an unconscious state characterized by behavioral unresponsiveness, lack of sleep-wake cycles and extremely low level of neuronal activity. The pathophysiology of coma and the mechanisms of recovery of consciousness remain only partially understood. A reliable coma model in small animals is an essential tool to study the brain function during induction and recovery of the comatose state, as well as for the search of potential targets for treatment.

Brainstem coma model in rats

We have recently developed a rat coma model based on focal damage to the brainstem/midbrain arousal nuclei by means of brainstem ischemia. The model allows tracking the neurological recovery of animals during the acute phase of coma progression, a period that is usually not accessible for sistematic study of the brain function in humans, and provides a platform to test treatment strategies aiming at promoting consciousness.

Our first results showed that this brainstem coma is associated with an initial respiratory depression lasting approximately one hour, a time during which only limb reflexes are observed, at most, followed by gradual recovery of neurological function. The neurological score (assessed with a newly developed Rat Coma Scale) correlates with the electrophysiological signals from cortex, which becomes isoelectric after coma induction and evolves into burst-suppression patterns with later emergence of slow waves. Resting state fMRI indicates a gradual increase of connectivity from the basal forebrain, basal ganglia and thalamus, as coma progresses, which may be associated with a certain participation of this network in the regaining of brain function.

We are currently investigating the mechanisms underlying coma induction and recovery with parallel cortical calcium/glutamate imaging and optogenetic stimulation of deep brain nuclei during fMRI studies in the comatose rat.

Curriculum Vitae


From July 2014: PhD student at Max Planck for Biological Cybernetics - Graduate School of Neuroscience Tuebingen.

2013-2014: M.Sc in BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING (60 ECTS) at Madrid Technical University (Spain). Master Final Project: In vitro neuronal network growing under the influence of a pulsed magnetic field.

2009-2013: B.Sc in MEDICAL BIOLOGY (240 ECTS) at Alcalá University (Spain).

2012-2013: Training on Neuroscience (30 ECTS) at the Graduate School of Neuroscience, Tübingen University.


October 2014: FELASA B for animal testing.


From July 2014: Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen (Germany), for the development of my PhD Thesis in Neuroscience. Working with high magnetic field MRI in the rat brain combining optogenetics and other techniques. Working in developmental biology of Zebrafish under high magnetic fields.

November-July2014: Centre for Biomedical Technologies, Madrid (Spain). Dissection of the locust brain, neurons culture and magnetic fields-dependent neurite outgrowth evaluation.

August 2013: Orthopaedic Institute and Tissue Bank, Santiago de Compostela (Spain). Osteoblasts culture and treatment of sponge bone from multi organ donors.

February-July 2013: Analytical Chemistry department of Alcalá University. Six months working for developing a new diagnostic technique for Galactosemia in urine samples, using a microfluidic chip.

June-July2012: Immunology department of Alcalá University. Two months working on the analysis of white blood cells and autophagy experiments using flow cytometry.


Spanish Society for Neuroscience - SENC 2017, Alicante (Spain).

Poster presentation award (title: "Experimental model for coma research").

European Society for Molecular Imaging - ESMI 2015, Tuebingen (Germany).

Poster presentation award (title: "High magnetic field induced otolith fusion in Zebrafish larvae").

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