How is the brain assembled and sculpted during embryonic development? Addressing this question has important implications for neurodevelopmental disorders affecting brain size and function. In evolutionary terms, our newest brain structure is the cerebral cortex, which drives higher cognitive capacities. The overall goal of my lab is to elucidate genetic and cellular mechanisms controlling cortical development and contributing to neurodevelopmental pathologies and brain evolution. We study neural progenitors, essential cells which generate neurons. We are guided by the premise that the same mechanisms at play during normal development were co-opted during evolution and when dysregulated, can cause disease. One line of inquiry is to understand genetic differences underlying human-specific brain development. Another major focus of our research is on post-transcriptional regulation during cortical development. We study RNA binding proteins that control cell fate in the developing brain and are implicated in brain disease. Using live imaging we have discovered that mRNA is rapidly transported in neural progenitors where it can be locally translated in distal compartments. This talk will largely focus on our ongoing studies to understand how these layers of post-transcriptional regulation influence cortical development and disease.
We are also interested in genetic changes that underlie human-specific brain development.
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