From genes to mind: the mystery of brain evolution.
Life started in the ocean, where the first nervous systems evolved more than 600 million years ago. The history of brains probably began from simple and rather unimpressive nerve nets, and culminated with the explosion of forms and functions that puzzles scientists since more than a century. With the comparative analysis of gene expression, it has become possible to recognise hidden similarities in seemingly different brains. I will discuss how studying genes allows us to understand what our own brain has in common with the brains of other animals, from marine worms to dinosaurs.
From the countryside of southern Italy, Dr. Maria Antonietta Tosches moved first to Pisa for her undergraduate studies and then to Heidelberg for her PhD. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research. She is interested in how evolution tinkered with genes to produce so many complex and diverse nervous systems.