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Laureate of the 2008 ATIP-avenir program


Writing the manual for cerebral microstimulation

Set up at NeuroSpin with the support of the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, Béchir Jarraya is developing neurosurgery tools to treat disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.


Deep brain stimulation may be able to cure Parkinson’s disease, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and even nervous breakdowns. Yet this technique, which involves sending electrical impulses through electrodes implanted in the specific regions of the brain, remains poorly understood and managed.

Supported by the Foundation, Béchir Jarraya has set up research at the NeuroSpin research center on the campus of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in Saclay, proposing to explore in detail the effects and possibilities of this “brain pacemaker,” using functional MRI (fMRI), potentially combined with other approaches.

The laboratory’s project will be carried out in three phases. The first will involve developing the experimental model, using fMRI to identify the brain signatures of pathologies such as abnormal states of consciousness (e.g. persistent vegetative state) and Parkinson’s disease. The research team will then use this model to predict the neurological consequences of electrical stimulation in the identified brain regions. Finally, once the signatures of cognitive and motor processes are well known, pre-clinical trials will test the therapeutic applicability of stimulation in the identified brain regions.

Other invasive and non-invasive solutions will be explored by the team. A year after receiving the Avenir program endowment, Béchir Jarraya published the results of a new gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease.



Béchir Jarraya is advancing neurosurgery in the hospital as well as the laboratory. His research on neuromodulation involves physical intervention on minuscule areas in the brain. As a neurosurgeon, he offers his patients the benefits of neuroscience breakthroughs made by his laboratory. His postdoctoral research taught him to use functional MRI with experimental models, enabling him to explore with great accuracy neurodegenerative disorders, chronic pain, disorders of consciousness and neurorehabilitation. The resolutely translational approach taken in his research has already enabled him to apply for a patent. He has co-invented a gene therapy to relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease without provoking dyskinesia or the involuntary movements associated with existing drug treatments.


  • 2005Doctorate in Medicine, with a specialization in Neurosurgery, Pierre and Marie Curie University (France
  • 2006Doctor of Neurosciences, Pierre and Marie Curie University (France)
  • 2006Bettencourt Schueller Foundation Prize for Young Researchers
  • 2006 - 2007Postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Wim Vanduffel, Harvard/MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (United States)
  • 2008Laureate of the Avenir program at Inserm in partnership with the Bettencourt-Schueller Foundation
  • Since 2009Head of NeuroSpin, French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (France)
  • 2010Aesculap Prize, European Association of Neurosurgical Societies
  • 2011Member of the French Academy of Medecine
  • Since 2011Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University (France)
  • Since 2011Chief Neurosurgeon, Neuromodulation Unit, Neurosurgery Department, Foch Hospital, Suresnes (France
  • 2011Aimée and Raymond Mande Prize, French Academy of Medecine
  • 2012French accreditation to direct research (HDR), Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University (France)