They make the Université de Lyon: meet Irene Cristofori


The Université de Lyon met with Irene Cristofori, a Neuroscience faculty at the Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, winner of the 2019 IMPULSION grant.

Irene Cristofori, lauréate IMPULSION 2019
Irene Cristofori, lauréate IMPULSION 2019
Tell us about your career path.

After obtaining a Master’s degree in Neuropsychology at the University of Bologna, Italy, I decided to come to Lyon to do a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1. Following my PhD, I completed a post-doctoral program in the United States, first at the Kessler Rehabilitation Center’s Brain Injury Lab, and then at the Cognitive Neuroscience Northwestern University Laboratory. In 2017, I joined the Neural and Cognitive Organization of Action team at the Marc Jeannerod Institute of Cognitive Sciences (ISC) in Lyon. I have been a research lecturer at the Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 since September 2018.

Tell us about your research project

Fifty percent of pediatric tumors are located in the posterior cerebral fossa. These tumors still pose significant problems in terms of mortality and morbidity (long-term after-effects). Surgery is the main form of treatment. However, the post-surgery recovery rate remains extremely inconsistent. Based on these observations, my project has a twofold objective: (1) identify the surgical risk factors that cause these inconsistencies; (2) develop intra-operative management tools to minimize these risks and to improve the long-term prognosis (quite like what has already been accomplished for the cerebrum).

What did you gain from the IMPULSION initiative?

The support I received from IMPULSION allowed me to hire a competent and experienced neuropsychologist for 16 months, which means that we can carefully monitor patients before and after surgery. This monitoring allows us to better understand the causes of post-operative after-effects and to develop specific procedures to help minimize them. IMPULSION also funded a study internship in a US laboratory; this internship was an exception opportunity to learn specific cutting-edge brain-injury investigation techniques. This is a major asset, not only to complete the research project, but also for its sustainability. In addition to the immediate impact of IMPULSION’s support, for the first time, we will be able to collect data which is crucial for future funding applications, at both a national and European level. IMPULSION also lays the groundwork for applying for major programs such as those with the European Research Council (ERC) or the French National Agency for Research (NAR).

What made you choose the Lyon Saint-Étienne site over other European cities?

I chose Lyon as I was drawn to the ISC Marc Jeannerod laboratory and the Neural and Cognitive Organization of Action team, led by Dr. Michel Desmurget. This research team has been working closely with neurosurgeons at the Hôpital Femme-Mère-Enfant (HFME, women’s and children’s Hospital) in Lyon for the past ten years. There are very few laboratories which combine clinical and fundamental research to such an extent, and any achievements in this field will have a major effect on the patients’ quality of life. This is why the aim of our project is to promote technology transfer to benefit patients. Besides that, after spending a few years in Lyon, I find that it’s very nice place to live!