Understanding How Neurodevelopmental History Shapes Adult Function

A fundamental question in developmental neurobiology is how lineage of neural cell types influences their mature function. The Harwell Lab takes a multidisciplinary approach utilizing molecular genetics, molecular biology, and modern circuit mapping techniques to analyze the function of temporally defined subgroups of neurons in the developing brain. We follow specific subgroups of neural progenitors through developmental time to understand the genetic and epigenetic programs that determine their ultimate fate. Together these diverse approaches provide a comprehensive picture of the molecular specification of distinct neuronal cell types and their functional relevance within circuits of the brain. There is substantial evidence from genetic studies suggesting mutations of certain genes involved in these early developmental processes is associated with a variety of neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. Our studies of the basic mechanisms regulating cell fate determination and circuit assembly may shed light upon the etiology of these complex disorders.

 

Our current goals are to understand:

 

  1. The molecular and cellular diversity of forebrain progenitors

  2. Genetic and epigenetic regulation of cell fate and neuronal diversity

  3. Molecular mechanisms by which forebrain neurons are assembled into functional circuits