Pierre Vanderhaeghen

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Deciphering species-specific properties of human corticogenesis.



The human brain and most strikingly the cerebral cortex has undergone rapid expansion and increased complexity during recent hominid evolution. 

One striking feature of human corticogenesis is that it is highly protracted in time, from early steps of expansion of progenitor pools and neurogenesis, to later stages of neuronal maturation and wiring. 
This protracted timing is thought to contribute in an important fashion to several key features of the human brain, such as cortical size and complexity.

In vitro pluripotent stem cell-based models and in vivo mouse - human chimeric brain experiments indicate that the species-specific temporal patterning of key steps of corticogenesis is largely intrinsic to cortical progenitors and neurons. 
The underlying molecular mechanisms start to be uncovered, and include human-specific duplicated genes.


Pierre Vanderhaeghen graduated as an MD/PhD from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), followed by a postdoctoral training at the Harvard Medical School. 

He is currently Professor and Group Leader at the VIB/Kuleuven Centre for Brain and Disease Research, Leuven, and at the Institute of Interdisciplinary Research (IRIBHM) at ULB. 

His lab studies the mechanisms of development of the cerebral cortex, from neurogenesis to synaptogenesis, in link with human brain evolution and diseases.