The human brain is by far the most complex biological structure. Consider that it contains a hundred billion neurons, of a thousand or more different classes, and each neuron is wired up to as many as ten thousand other neurons; this allows for a really astonishing number of alternative wiring configurations. Yet the elaborate pattern of connectional networks between neurons that constitutes the machinery for sensation, movement, emotion and thought, is remarkably similar between individuals. Indeed, the basic plan of the brain is virtually identical between individuals of the same species and recognisably similar between human and mouse, for example.
At the Centre for Developmental Neurobiology we investigate the mechanisms governing the formation of the brain, both during embryonic development and in our early postnatal life, when early experience continues to shape the way our brain is constructed. The 'ground plan' of the brain is genetically determined, but it is highly influenced by environmental experience. Such is the complexity of the brain's construction, however, that we are still far from a complete understanding of its basic processes, such as those that are in common across different species, let alone those that are uniquely human. Understanding brain development will not only inform about individual variability — why are we different from each other — but also about the origin of pathological behaviours such as those found in individuals with mental disorders.
Our scientists investigate brain development from different perspectives. You can explore our work in three different areas: