Dr Rodrigo Suárez  
Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland

Title: "Clues from the past: marsupials reveal new principles of evolutionary, developmental and systems neuroscience"

Abstract: Only mammals evolved a neocortex, and only eutherians evolved a corpus callosum. Both are defining features of the human brain, in which subtle changes during development (i.e., of genetic and/or environmental origin) can result in life-long deficits such as autism, schizophrenia or foetal alcohol syndrome. As cortical development begins inside the uterus, most of our knowledge about its mechanisms comes from rodents and/or post-mortem/ex-vivo/in-vitro studies. Very little, however, is known about the evolution of cortical development; and whether the phylogenetic history of brain circuits (e.g., their conservation and diversification across mammalian lineages) relates to the susceptibility and functional outcome of human brain disease, remains virtually unexplored. Furthermore, the lack of in vivo paradigms during corticogenesis has hindered our understanding of its developmental neurophysiology. Here, I will introduce a small carnivorous Australian marsupial, the fat-tailed dunnart, as an exceptional experimental model for questions regarding the evolution, development, and function of neocortical circuits. Their unlimited and non-invasive access inside the pouch offers unprecedented opportunities for molecular and functional studies throughout all stages of corticogenesis. These features, combined with state-of-the-art techniques that range from transcriptomics and transgenesis to optogenetics and live imaging of neural activity, has helped reveal new fundamental principles of cortical wiring. I will describe the rich potential of dunnarts for biological and biomedical studies, while highlighting the central role that evolutionary-developmental (a.k.a. evo-devo) perspectives play to inform systems neuroscience at the level of neocortical circuits.


About Neuroscience Seminars

Neuroscience seminars at the QBI play a major role in the advancement of neuroscience in the Asia-Pacific region. The primary goal of these seminars is to promote excellence in neuroscience through the exchange of ideas, establishing new collaborations and augmenting partnerships already in place.

Seminars in the QBI Auditorium are held on Wednesdays at 12-1pm, which are sometimes simulcast on Zoom (with approval from the speaker). We also occassionally hold seminars from international speakers via Zoom. The days and times of these seminars will vary depending on the time zone of the speaker. Please see each seminar listed below for details. 


Neuroscience Seminars archive 2005-2018