Over 100 years ago, Santiago Ramon y Cajal performed a cell census of the brain. By systematically recording detailed morphological features of individual cells visualized by Golgi stain, Cajal poetically compared himself to an entomologist chasing the “mysterious butterflies of the soul” in the “garden of grey matter”. His legacy substantiated the view that brain cells can be classified according to defined cellular phenotypes. Since the days of Cajal, new technologies help us to describe additional modalities of cell identity, including gene expression, chromatin state, dynamic cell behavior, connectivity, and physiology. Integrating these diverse modalities in a common framework of cellular taxonomy in the nervous system will support research into brain structure and function.
How does the human brain develop from a series of self-assembling cellular units? Research during the 20th century revealed the principles of tissue development, including the timing of cell generation, intercellular interactions, and developmental lineage relationships. We seek to build on these findings by uncovering genetic controls underlying neurodevelopmental events, tissue organization and cellular demographics.
With the recent development of single-cell sequencing technologies, we are now able to study complex developmental processes at unprecendented resolution. We seek to utilize these technologies to:
- Identify neurodevelopmental programs regulating developmental origins of cellular diversity and cell type specification in the developing cerebral cortex;
- Uncover the molecular control of radial glia neural stem cell maintenance, proliferation and differentiation;
- Highlight cellular patterns of selective vulnerability in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders, including Autism Spectrum Disorders and Schizophrenia.