Speaker of Workshop 2
Will talk about: Functional genomics of human brain development and evolution
Nenad Sestan is a Professor of Neurobiology at the Yale School of Medicine and a member of the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience (www.sestanlab.org). He obtained his M.D. from the University of Zagreb and his Ph.D. in neurobiology from Yale University. Nenad Sestan’s research has been concerned with molecular mechanisms involved in the formation of neural circuits in the cerebral cortex, a part of the brain that is critical for cognition, perception and behavior. His laboratory has also studied how these developmental mechanisms have evolved and become compromised in human disorders.
Nenad Sestan is the recipient of several international awards and honors, including the Krieg Cortical Discoverer Award, NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Award, and McDonnell Scholar Award, as well as Research Awards from the Simons Foundation, the March of Dimes Foundation, the Whitehall Foundation, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, and the Tourette Syndrome Association. He has also served as a key Principal Investigator for the BrainSpan and PsychENCODE consortia.
The mammalian brain develops through a dynamic and prolonged process that depends on the precise regulation of gene expression, and these processes vary across mammals to generate species-specific neural circuits and behaviors. Systematic efforts to map detailed gene expression patterns in the developing human brain have been lacking. In this presentation, I will describe some of our recent efforts to characterize the transcriptome of the developing human brain. I will also introduce the audience to the BrainSpan project (www.brainspan.org), a rich new open access data resource focused on anatomical, transcriptional and epigenetic analyses of the developing human brain. These data are already being used in a variety of ways. I will demonstrate how they can be used to study the molecular instructions for human brain development, and how there are conserved and divergent features between model organisms and humans that may help explain unique features of human brain structure and function. In addition, they provide a spatiotemporal map of transcript distribution that can be used to complement genetic studies of diseases, providing potential regional and developmental patterns of action for disease-associated genes.