Mathematical models of brain development

Geoffrey Goodhill (Hosted by Tikhonov), Queensland Brain Institute

Constructing from scratch a fully-functioning brain involves many formidable challenges. Physics can help us understand the nature of these challenges and how biology might overcome them. I will discuss our work addressing two of these challenges. First I will consider how molecular concentration gradients could guide growing nerve fibers to appropriate targets in the brain in the face of fundamental physical limits on concentration measurement. Second I will address how neural representations of sensory information develop that are useful for guiding behavior, and how these might be altered in Autism Spectrum Disorders. In both cases theoretical ideas are constrained by our own quantitative experimental measurements, including in vitro studies of mammalian nerve fiber growth and in vivo measurements of neural activity in larval zebrafish. Together this work contributes to our understanding of both normal neural development and the aetiology of neurodevelopmental disorders.

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