National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Developmental Origins of Brain Circuit Architecture and Psychiatric Disorders
November 29 - 30, 2018

Porter Neuroscience Research Center, Bldg. 35A
National Institute of Health
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20892

picture of brain circuits

Image courtesy Zhong (Lucas) Hua
and Jeremy Nathans


Developmental neurobiology is a critical ingredient for understanding the structure and function of the human brain. Classical anatomists recognized that the brain’s component architecture is most accurately seen through the lens of neurodevelopment. This principle has been further applied to understand the brain’s internal connections, capacity for learning, and functional maturation.

Over the past two decades, research in the mouse has taken advantage of the remarkable molecular and genetic tools available in that species, yielding a series of breakthroughs regarding mammalian brain development. Fundamental discoveries have centered on the genetic specification that governs, for example, early brain patterning, neurogenesis, migration, axonal connections, and circuit maturation and plasticity.  Because the brains of different mammalian species share a common architecture and basic developmental plan, many of the principles observed in the mouse can be translated directly toward our understanding of the human brain.  At the same time, the human brain is nearly three orders of magnitude larger than the mouse brain and operates with different sensory and cognitive specializations.  Thus, the human brain development diverges significantly from that of the mouse in the location of progenitor neurons, the early neural migrations, the nature of experience-dependent maturation, and many other aspects. It is thus critical to consider how the many discoveries from the mouse can be directly translated to the human brain, and what future experiments and animal models are most likely to provide the needed developmental perspectives on human brain architecture.  

By drawing together researchers from different fields, this symposium aims to generate healthy discussion and debate on how advances in neurodevelopment have shaped and will continue to shape, our understanding of brain architecture and function, both in health and in psychiatric disorders.