Our lab uses modern anatomic, molecular and analytic techniques to shed new light on old problems: which innovations that have accumulated along the primate lineage enable higher cognitive function, and which variants
lead to brain disease?
Our research (1) develops new tools and approaches to study cell types in non-model systems, (2) characterizes developmental processes that lead to primate brain specializations and (3) applies scalable molecular analyses of disease relevant mutations to inform models of human brain function and disorder.
RESEARCH & DISCOVERIES
NEW WAYS OF STUDYING MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR DIVERSITY
We identify regulatory elements such as enhancers from single cell ATAC-seq and use these in viral vectors (AAVs) to drive or manipulate expression in specific cell types. We use species-comparative approaches to better understand the evolution of genome regulation in brain cell types.
WHEN AND HOW NEOCORTICAL SPECIALIZATIONS EMERGE
Why do the expanded territories of association cortex in the human (and nonhuman primate) brain come to preferentially interconnect with one another across long distances? What is the cellular basis for this network architecture and how does it support specialized functions? Unlike primary sensory cortex – which receives sensory information via the thalamus and contains a largely ascending series of local projections – association cortical regions receive input from higher-order thalamic nuclei. We investigate whether and how the rules that govern neocortical development in mice extend to primate neurodevelopment.
A CELLULAR AND MOLECULAR ATLAS OF THE MARMOSET BRAIN
We are developing a comprehensive map of molecular and cellular diversity that will serve as a reference for neurodevelopmental studies or for effects of genetic perturbation. Along the way, we are learning about the surprisingly lively ways that cell types specialize and evolve across individuals, species, and brain structures.
PRIMATE FUNCTIONAL SPECIALIZATIONS
How do primate molecular specializations enable unique cognitive and social capacities? We are particularly interested in the emergence of genetically-encoded social behaviors. We use what we’ve learned – from gene expression and from genome regulation across species – to gain a comparative perspective on unique aspects of primate cognitive social behavior, as well as inform models of human neurodevelopmental disorders.