Rappaport Faculty of Medicine
Search Committee Seminar
Speaker: Mark Shein-Idelson, Ph.D.
Affiliation: Department of Neural Systems & Coding,
Max-Planck-Institute for Brain Research,
Title: From dragons’ sleep to sliders’ sight: Explorations in ancestral cortices
Date: Jan 11, 2017
Place: 4th Floor Seminar Room
The emergence of the cortex and its dramatic increase in size during vertebrate evolution suggest that it employs valuable computations. However, despite decades of intensive research and major advances in our knowledge of the molecular machinery underlying cortical functions, we still lack an understanding of these computations. In my talk, I will suggest that new insights can be gained by studying “simpler” cortices which are found in extant reptiles. Reptiles are the only extant class except mammals to have a layered cortex and are closest to the common ancestor of all amniotes (mammals, reptiles and birds). The reptilian cortex has three-layers (in contrast to six layers in mammals) and contains subdivisions that are considered to be homologous to both the mammalian neocortex and hippocampus. Focusing on two examples: sleep in bearded dragons and visual processing in red eared sliders, I will suggest that studying reptiles can provide a new understanding of the evolution of brain activity. In addition, reptilian brains can serve as a valuable model system for understanding population dynamics during sleep and wakefulness and may expose fundamental computational principles shared by all amniotes.