Sergi Simó, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor In-Residence
3402 Tupper Hall
The 100 billion neurons that form our central nervous system (CNS) are exquisitely localized and wired, allowing us to perform everyday tasks such as walking, reading or thinking. Neurons find their positions within the brain almost exclusively during embryonic development. A wide variety of guidance cues pilot neurons from the proliferation niches to their final destination, where they stop, mature, and integrate into the existing network. Neurons respond to these guidance cues by regulating signaling pathways that control a myriad of cellular processes (including neuronal speed, direction, and rest phases).
Failures in neuron migration cause several physical and mental diseases, grouped together as neuronal migration disorders, that range from mild cognitive dysfunctions to large brain malformations. To date, nearly all treatments for these disorders are purely palliative due to lack of information about the underlying molecular signaling pathways that are affected. Understanding how a healthy brain is built is an essential first step towards curative therapies for neuronal migration disorders. The goal of my research is to understand how normal development patterns the CNS and particularly how migrating neurons integrate guidance information by regulating signaling pathways to navigate and successfully reach their final destinations during development. These studies will contribute to a broader understanding of how the CNS is built and will potentially translate into novel therapies for neuronal migration disorders.