Breaking symmetry in the brain: from genes to circuits and behaviour
It is likely that the nervous systems of all bilaterally symmetric animals are left-right asymmetric with respect to processing of information and control of behaviour. However, we know very little about how asymmetries arise in development, how they are encoded in circuits and what their importance is for nervous system function. We use developmental, genetic, imaging and behavioural approaches to study habenular asymmetry in zebrafish to address these issues. One focus is to determine the mechanisms that lead to neurons on the left and the right acquiring different character and establishing different circuit connectivity between left and right sides of the brain. We have also been using optogenetic approaches to characterise functional properties on neurons on left and right and assessing how genetic mutations affecting laterality affect circuitry. In parallel we are developing behavioural assays to assess how habenular circuit asymmetry affects behaviour.
Steve Wilson is Professor of Developmental Genetics and Vice-dean for Research at UCL in London. Ever since his post-doc at the University of Michigan with Steve Easter, his research has been focused on brain development using zebrafish as a model system. He established an independent research group in 1992 and moved to UCL in 1998 as a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, was appointed Professor of Developmental Genetics in 2002 and Vice-Dean for Research in 2007. Steve was elected to the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2002 and to EMBO in 2005. He is Deputy Editor in Chief for the journal Development and Chaired the Wellcome Trust Basic Science Interview Committee until 2016. He won the Remedios Caro Almeida Prize in Developmental Neurobiology in 2009.