From babes to scholars... how cerebral cortex development shapes our thinking

Proper development of the cerebral cortex is critical for higher order processes such as conscious thought, decision making and reasoning. When processes involved in its development go awry, neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia commonly occur. Our research focuses on studying neural stem cells within the cerebral cortex that populate the brain with neurons and glia. Specifically, we aim to knockdown proteins that are suspected to be vital to neural stem cell function. Shown in our image is a typical in utero electroporation surgery that aims to knockdown proteins during cerebral cortex development. Being injected and shocked into the embryonic brains are short-hairpin RNA, that reduces the amount of these vital proteins within neural stem cells. We can then allow these embryos to grow and observe how the development of the cerebral cortex changes in the absence of these proteins. Our research aims to uncover the mechanisms involved in cerebral cortex development, to elucidate the causes of neurodevelopmental disorders and provide targets for their treatment or prevention.