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Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research

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Professor Nicoletta Kessaris

Neuronal Fate and Circuit Development
Nicoletta Kessaris Photo


Tel: 
020 7679 6737
Email: n.tekki-kessaris@ucl.ac.uk
Website: http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~rmgzntk/

The adult brain consists of a large number of neurons and glial cells, most of which are generated during embryogenesis from neuroepithelial stem cells. Neural stem cells are highly specialised with respect to the neurons they generate, thus creating the extensive neuronal diversity that exists in the adult brain.

We focus on cortical inhibitory interneurons, a heterogeneous population of neurons implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. Using molecular genetic tools in model organisms, we have been mapping out their stem cell origins. Using loss- and gain-of-function approaches in vivo, we are examining the role of signalling pathways and other mechanisms involved in interneuron specification. Interneurons in the adult cortex connect to their cortical targets in a highly specialized manner. We are investigating molecular mechanisms the mediate synaptic partner selection. Our aim is to gain insight into the role of subtype-specific wiring of interneurons in functional neural assemblies. 

Another area of high complexity in terms of neuronal composition is the septum. Located at a nodal point in the forebrain, the septum forms an integral part of the limbic system that regulates emotion and memory. We are examining the embryonic origin and specification of septal neurons. Using in vivo approaches we are looking into the role of different neuronal populations in septal circuits and how perturbations of the system can affect behaviour.

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