Members: T. Morey, M. E. Chwalek, R. Instrum, K.Qu, & T. Wasiuta.

A sketch illustrating the life-long process that is neural development. Mechanisms that shape our brains are occurring well past birth.

Neurodevelopment is an elaborate and intricate process that encompasses the formation, growth, and maturation of the brain as well as its plasticity throughout life. This process begins with the neuronal stem cell where, following the formation of the neural tube, neuronal cells begin to specialize into different subsets of neurons (e.g. midbrain dopaminergic neurons). It continues during the patterning of the cortex, which relies on the presence of signaling centers that define boundaries and induce the cells around them to adopt specific fates. The axons of these cells must then navigate through the body to form connections with their target cells to form functional synapses. Modulation of the intracellular state and cytoskeletal dynamics of axonal growth cones via contact-mediated and secreted chemotrophic factors is essential for accurate neural connectivity. Many common morphogens play important roles in the aforementioned processes leading to the formation of proper neural architecture. These morphogens include: Sonic Hedgehog, WNT, Retinoic Acid, and Fibroblast Growth Factors.[1] Synaptogenesis and synaptic pruning then continue throughout life in an activity-dependent manner, resulting in characteristic developmental states such as ‘the teenage brain'’.[2] Influences of hormones such as GnRH on synapse maturation appear to have profound effects on the plasticity that can occur during this developmental stage. Gaining a detailed understanding of the fundamental mechanisms leading to the development of the nervous system is essential to further the advancement of treatments for a variety of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders.

  • 1. Neuronal Differentiation (Trevor Morey)
    • 1.1 Glutaminergic and Gabaergic Cortical Neurons
    • 1.2 Basal Forebrain Cholinergic Neurons
    • 1.3 Midbrain Dopaminergic Neurons
    • 1.4 Spinal Cord Motor Neurons

  • 2. Cortical Patterning (Michal Chwalek)
    • 2.1 The Cortical Hem Signaling Center
    • 2.2 The Commissural Plate Signaling Center
    • 2.3 The Cortical Anti-Hem Signaling Center

  • 3. Axonal Pathfinding (Ryan Instrum)
    • 3.1 Extracellular Chemotropic Growth Cues
    • 3.2 Modulation of Growth Cone Sensitivity
    • 3.3 Morphogen Involvement in Guidance and Regeneration
    • 3.4 Clinical Significance in Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury

  • 4. Synaptogenesis (Kathleen Qu)
    • 4.1 Overview of Cell and Pleomorphic Clustering, and Pre- and Post-Synaptic Specialization
    • 4.2 Hormonal Influence on Synaptic Maturation


  1. ^ Huber, A.B., Kolodkin, A.L., Ginty, D.D. & Cloutier, J.F. Signaling at the growth cone: ligand-receptor complexes and the control of axon growth and guidance. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 26, 509–63 (2003)
  2. ^ Kolb, B. and Gibb, R. Brain plasticity and behaviour in the developing brain. Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 20, 265-76 (2011)