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UPGG Graduate Student (2010)
223 CARL Building
Box 3175 DUMC
Durham, N.C. 27710
Gene regulatory mechanisms governing brain development and evolution
The dorsal cortex is a remarkable region of the vertebrate brain that is responsible for integrating sensory information and coordinating motor commands. As a result, the dorsal cortex has been extensively modified by natural selection and undergone significant size expansion during anthropoid evolution, particularly along the lineage leading to Homo sapiens. The emergence of uniquely human cognitive traits, such as abstraction and sociability, have been attributed to neocortical expansion. Moreover, defects in the neocortex, either by trauma or developmental aberration, can lead to devastating neuropsychiatric disease.
My interests are focused on understanding the gene regulatory mechanisms directing early forebrain development and how these mechanisms have been co-opted during human evolution. I am investigating the functional consequences of human-specific mutations within proximal promoters and noncoding regions bearing epigenetic enhancer marks (i.e. H3K4me1, H3K27ac) located near known neurodevelopment genes.
My project a collaborative effort between the labs of Greg Wray (Biology) and Debra Silver (MGM), who bring expertise in molecular evolution and developmental neurobiology, respectively.