The complexity of the human brain, with thousands of neuronal types, permits the development of sophisticated behavioral repertoires, such as language, tool use, self-awareness, symbolic thought, cultural learning and consciousness. From such dynamic complexity emerged extraordinary technological and artistic masterpieces in a relatively short cultural history. Moreover, brain complexity has a creative purpose. Understanding what produces neuronal diversification during brain development has been a longstanding challenge for neuroscientists and may bring insights into the evolution of human cognition.
The Muotri lab explores mobile elements as generators of diversity during neuronal differentiation. These mobile elements may be part of a conserved genetic core process responsible for evoking facilitated complex non-random phenotypical variation upon which selection may act. The lab uses animal models, neural stem cells, human and other primates’ pluripotent cells and several molecular tools to investigate fundamental mechanisms of brain development, evolution and neural disorders, including Autism Spectrum Disorders.Research Focus Areas:Developmental BiologyDNA Replication and RepairGenetics and GenomicsGene Expression and RegulationNeurodevelopment and Neurodegenerative DiseaseStem Cell Biology