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Prof Steve Wilson
Gower St
London
WC1E 6BT
Appointment
  • Professor of Developmental Biology
  • Cell & Developmental Biology
  • Div of Biosciences
  • Faculty of Life Sciences
Research Summary
The primary aim of our research group is to elucidate the mechanisms that underlie patterning of the vertebrate forebrain. We would like to know how the brain takes shape, how neurons acquire their identities and how they integrate into functional circuits. For our studies, we work with zebrafish, as the brains of fish embryos are relatively simple and are amenable to genetic, molecular and imaging approaches. One focus for our research is to study how left-right asymmetries in circuitry are generated in the brain, and to investigate their behavioural consequences. In humans, this handedness is evident both in terms of behavioural asymmetries such as preferential hand use and in terms of sensory processing including aspects of language processing in the left hemisphere. Nervous system asymmetries are not just limited to humans and indeed are probably a universal feature of all asymmetric nervous systems. In fish there are several prominent asymmetries in the forebrain and we have been studying how they are established. Our research suggests that two mechanisms are involved in generating asymmetry. First, one set of signals breaks symmetry by promoting migration of cells (the parapineal nucleus) to one side of the brain. Second, another signalling pathway ensures that the direction of the asymmetry is consistent between individuals (just as it is in humans). A consequence of the activity of these two pathways is the generation of asymmetric neuroanatomical connectivity with consistent laterality. We are studying how neurons respond to the signals that establish asymmetry and consequently establish lateralised circuitry. To facilitate this approach, we have developed a single cell electroporation technique to enable us to visualise individual neurons in their entirety. A recent result is that we find that neurons on the left and right sides of the brain exhibit different terminal morphologies and targeting.
Academic Background
1988 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Neurobiology King's College London
1984 BSc Hons Bachelor of Science (Honours) – Biological Sciences University of Leicester
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