POSTPONED: BBI-Kavli Distinguished Speaker Series: Nenad Sestan

Wednesday, April 8, 2020
10:00 a.m.
1103 Bioscience Research Building

**This event has been rescheduled for the Fall term. It will now take place on December 1, 2020, 10:00 a.m., 1103 BRB**

Speaker:
 Dr. Nenad Sestan (Yale)

Title: Building the Human Neocortex: The Molecular and Cellular Logic of Neural Circuit Formation and Evolution

Abstract: The question of what makes us human has fascinated humankind throughout modern history. Today, we view the brain as the core component of human identity, and an understanding of this organ is consequently essential for answering why we as a species are what we are. What distinguishes humans from other species is largely thought to reside in the unique features of brain development, especially in the wiring of the immensely complex neural circuits that underlie our remarkable cognitive and motor abilities. However, the unique innovations driving the formation of these intricate neural circuits may also increase our susceptibility to certain neurological and psychiatric disorders. In my presentation, I will describe some of our recent efforts to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which the connections between neurons are formed within the developing cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that processes senses, commands motor activity, and underlies higher-order cognitive functions. I will also present evidence on how this complex developmental process may have evolved and become compromised in human disorders.

About: Nenad Sestan is a professor of neuroscience, of comparative medicine, of genetics and of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and a member of the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience. He obtained his M.D. from the University of Zagreb and his Ph.D. in neurobiology from Yale University. Dr. Sestan is a leading expert studying the genetic specification of human cortical development. His team has published recent high-profile studies investigating the transcriptomic and epigenetic programs contributing to human brain evolution and the emergence of neuropsychiatric disorders. In separate research, his group has pioneered technologies for maintaining brain function ex-vivo post-mortem—this latter work establishes a new experimental paradigm for analyzing brain development and function and raises important ethical questions for researchers and the public at large. To honor his group's accomplishments, Dr. Sestan was recently named the Harvey and Cate Cushing Professor of Neuroscience at Yale, was awarded the 2019 Constance Lieber Prize for Innovation in Developmental Neuroscience, and was named one of "Nature's 10" people who have had an important impact on science in 2019.

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