Columbia University in the City of New York

May 30, 20234:00 pm

Columbia Neuroscience Seminar - Alex Pollen

Cell Type Evolution and Vulnerabilities in the Primate Brain

May 30th, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm at the Jerome L. Greene Science Center (9th floor lecture hall)


Alex Pollen, PHD
Assistant Professor of Neurology

University of California San Francisco Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

Cell Type Evolution and Vulnerabilities in the Primate Brain

Primate brains vary in size and organization, but the genetic, developmental, and cellular basis for these differences has been difficult to study due to limited experimental models. Combining comparative single cell transcriptomics studies of normal development with brain organoids models now enables studying the mechanisms underlying evolved cellular specializations and vulnerabilities among primates. In this talk, I will describe two contrasting developmental mechanisms for the evolution of novel cell types in the primate lineage. As qualitatively new cell types are rare in recent human evolution, I will further describe approaches for studying human-specific gene network evolution in conserved cell types. Ultimately, functional studies in great ape stem cell models, complemented by comparisons and validation in available primary tissue, could be applied beyond studies of progenitor cell evolution to decode the genetic and developmental origin of recent changes in cellular organization, connectivity patterns, myelination, synaptic activity, and physiology that have been implicated in human cognition.

 Host Information: Edmund Au ([email protected])


The Columbia Neuroscience Seminar series is a collaborative effort of Columbia's Zuckerman Institute, the Department of Neuroscience, the Doctoral Program in Neurobiology and Behavior and the Columbia Translational Neuroscience Initiative, and with support from the Kavli Institute for Brain Science.

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