Andre M. M. Sousa
Position title: Assistant Professor
Ph.D. from University of Porto, Portugal
Human brain development is a long and complex process that is precisely choreographed through tightly regulated transcriptional programs. Proper regulation of these programs is necessary for developing the numerous functionally distinct regions and cell types of the brain. Because the human brain exhibits morphological, physiological, and neural circuitry differences compared to other species, including non-human primates (NHP), many of these programs are likely human-specific. However, the precise molecular mechanisms underlying species-specific differences have yet to be fully characterized. Importantly, uncovering this knowledge has potentially far-reaching biomedical implications, as human-specific molecular and cellular mechanisms are likely important for not only producing human cognition and behavior, but also for underlying neuropsychiatric disorders. Therefore, in my research I seek to identify and characterize the molecular and cellular mechanisms that govern human brain development and evolution, and apply that knowledge towards understanding neuropsychiatric disorders. Towards this goal, I employ a multifaceted approach that combines: 1) functional genomic studies to identify the genes and the regulatory logic controlling their expression, as well as the cell types that underlie human-specific aspects of brain development; 2) developmental neurobiology studies that combine mouse models, induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, and postmortem human and NHP brains for functional characterization of candidate genes in brain development; and, 3) molecular and cellular biology studies that inform the mechanisms that are disrupted by alterations in those genes, particularly the ones that are associated with neurodevelopmental disorders.
Research Key Words:
Neuroscience, Development, Evolution, Functional Genomics