Gene Manipulation: Possible Links to Schizophrenia and Autism

The mammalian cerebral cortex is responsible for higher functions of the brain, such as perception, cognition and memory.  My lab focuses on how the developing cortex is organized into different areas specialized for different functions.  We have found that cell groups, called signaling centers, at the edges of the embryonic cortex, release signaling proteins that form gradients across the cortical tissue.  These protein gradients provide positional information that directs the development of the cortical “area map”.  Interestingly, these signaling centers are close to regions of the cortex implicated in human mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and autism, suggesting that perturbations of the signaling centers in development could have serious consequences on mental health.  In this project, I propose to establish, in mice, a new way to perturb signaling in one of these signaling centers, termed the cortical hem.  This new approach should allow us to uncover the functions of this and other signaling centers with great precision, and to determine what goes wrong with cortical development when these centers do not function properly.

Other Grants

Rebekah C. Evans, Ph.D., Georgetown University
In Vivo and Ex Vivo Dissection of Midbrain Neuron Activity During Exercise
Exercise is important for the health of the body and the mind. Exercise promotes learning and reduces symptoms of brain-related diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it…
William J. Giardino, Ph.D. Stanford University
Deciphering the Neuropeptide Circuitry of Emotional Arousal in Narcolepsy
This research project aims to investigate the neural mechanisms of a specific type of brain cell called neuropeptide neurons within a region of the brain’s amygdala network called the bed…
Howard Gritton, Ph.D., University of Illinois
Attention Mechanisms Contributing to Auditory Spatial Processing.
Our world is composed of a rich mixture of sounds. We often process sounds including speech in the presence of many other competing auditory stimuli (e.g., voices in a crowded…
Nora Kory, Ph.D., Harvard University
Elucidating the Fates and Functions of Lactate in the Brain
The human brain requires significant energy to function. Despite accounting for only 2% of our body weight, the brain consumes a substantial 20% of the body’s energy, relying on a…