Researcher biography

I am a biologist interested in the general question of how changes in developmental processes can lead to evolutionary variation and origin of complex traits (such as neural circuits). I study development and evolution of the brain of mammals. My doctoral thesis studied brain regions involved in olfactory and pheromonal communication in mammals. I discovered several events of parallel co-variation of sensory pathways in distantly related species sharing similar ecological niches, as cases of ontogenetic and phylogenetic plasticity. Currently, I study development and evolution of neocortical circuits by following two main lines of research: one aims to determine how early neuronal activity affects development of cortical circuits, and the other one aims to understand what developmental processes led to the evolution of the mammalian brain, including the origin of the corpus callosum exclusively in Eutherians, but not in monotreme or marsupial mammals, and the evolution of the neocortex in mammals but not in other vertebrates. My research combines molecular development (electroporation, CRISPR), transcriptomics, sensory manipulations, neuroanatomy mapping (MRI, stereotaxic tracer injections, confocal and image analysis), optogenetics, and in vivo calcium imaging in rodent pups and marsupial joeys.