Alysson Muotri gives MillerComm / Frontiers in MBM Lecture April 6

Alysson MuotriAlysson Muotri, Professor and Director of the Stem Cell Program at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, will lecture on “Human Brain Organogenesis – creating a nervous system outside the womb” April 6, 2022 at 4:00pm on Zoom. William Baker, MBM Trainee and PhD candidate in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, will provide an introduction. The lecture is free and open to the public courtesy of the MBM Program and the Center for Advanced Study.

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The study of human neurodevelopment is affected by the inaccessibility of the pre-natal human brain in utero. Brain organoids allow scientists to recapitulate, at least partially, major milestones of neurodevelopment in the dish. However, while brain organoids have successfully being used to study molecular and cellular alterations, the study of neural networks was never possible due to the inability to generate complex network behavior in vitro.

We developed cortical organoids that spontaneously display periodic and regular oscillatory network events that are dependent on excitation and inhibition signaling. These nested oscillations exhibit cross-frequency coupling, making it possible to coordinate neuronal computation and communication. As evidence of potential network maturation, oscillatory activity subsequently transitioned to more spatiotemporally irregular patterns, capturing features observed in preterm human electroencephalography (EEG).

These results show that the development of structured network activity in the human neocortex may follow stable genetic programming, even in the absence of external or subcortical inputs. Our approach provides novel opportunities for investigating and manipulating the role of network activity in the developing human cortex. Applications for neurodevelopmental disorders, brain evolution, as well as the ethical and moral implications of our findings will be discussed.


Alysson Muotri is Professor and Director of the Stem Cell Program for the Institute for Genomic Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. He earned a BSc in Biological Sciences from the State University of Campinas in 1995 and a PhD in Genetics in 2001 from University of Sao Paulo, in Brazil. He moved to the Salk Institute as Pew Latin America Fellow in 2002 for a postdoctoral training in the fields of neuroscience and stem cell biology. He has been at the School of Medicine, University of California in San Diego since 2008. His research focuses on human neurodevelopment, brain evolution, and modeling neurological diseases, such as autism spectrum disorders. His lab has developed several techniques to culture human cells and functional brain organoids. He has received several awards, including the prestigious NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, NARSAD, Emerald Foundation Young Investigator Award, Rock Star of Innovation from CONNECT, NIH EUREKA Award among others.

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