MillerComm Lecture Series

Human Brain Organogenesis – Creating a Nervous System Outside the Womb

Wednesday, April 6th, 2022
Alysson Muotri

Zoom event

Event Description


The study of human neurodevelopment is affected by the inaccessibility of the pre-natal human brain in utero. Brain organoids allow scientists to recapitulate, at least partially, major milestones of neurodevelopment in the dish. However, while brain organoids have successfully been used to study molecular and cellular alterations, the study of neural networks was never possible due to the inability to generate complex network behavior in vitro.

Professor Muotri’s lab has developed cortical organoids that spontaneously display periodic and regular oscillatory network events that are dependent on excitation and inhibition signaling. These nested oscillations exhibit cross-frequency coupling, making it possible to coordinate neuronal computation and communication. As evidence of potential network maturation, oscillatory activity subsequently transitioned to more spatiotemporally irregular patterns, capturing features observed in preterm human electroencephalography (EEG).

These results show that the development of structured network activity in the human neocortex may follow stable genetic programming, even in the absence of external or subcortical inputs. This approach provides novel opportunities for investigating and manipulating the role of network activity in the developing human cortex. Applications for neurodevelopmental disorders, brain evolution, as well as the ethical and moral implications of these findings will be discussed.

Hosted by: Miniature Brain Machinery (MBM) Program

Cosponsored by: Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, College of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Department of Bioengineering, Department of Cellular & Developmental Biology, Department of Comparative Biosciences, Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology, Illinois Health Sciences Institute (IHSI),The Graduate College, The Neuroscience Program

Alysson Muotri

Director, Stem Cell Program for the Institute for Genomic Medicine
University of California San Diego School of Medicine