Segments and neurons in the zebrafish hindbrain.

David Wilkinson : Neural Development Laboratory

We are finding out how different parts of the brain form during development.

The brain is a very complex organ made up of many distinct parts. The ‘building blocks’ of these different regions are laid down very early during development as an embryo grows, ensuring that each part forms in the right place.

We want to understand how this underlying pattern is created and identify the genes and molecules involved. And we also want to know how cells in one part of the brain stay in that particular region and don’t move into other places.

Using zebrafish as a model system, we are focusing on the molecular signals sent between cells, which set up boundaries between different parts of the brain as it develops. We also study how signals from these boundaries help to organise different types of cells that form in the brain.

Our work is revealing the hidden processes that build a brain during the earliest stages of life. And our findings also help to explain what happens when things go wrong, causing developmental disorders, brain diseases or cancer.