SimonaLodatoSimona Lodato (Humanitas University, Milan) has been invited by Filippo Del Bene to hold a talk on Monday 7th November, 2.30 p.m., in the conference room of the UCL, 13 Rue Moreau.

This talk will be on "Spontaneous activity and neuronal diversity in the developing cerebral cortex".


The cerebral cortex contains an extraordinary diversity of excitatory projection neurons (PN) and inhibitory interneurons (IN), wired together to form complex circuits. Spatiotemporally coordinated execution of intrinsic molecular programs by PNs and INs and activity-dependent processes, contribute to cortical development and cortical microcircuit formation. Alterations of these delicate processes have often been associated with neurological/neurodevelopmental disorders. However, despite the groundbreaking discovery that spontaneous activity in the embryonic brain can shape regional identities of distinct territories, it is still unclear whether subtype-specific neuronal identity can impact this early activity. In this study, we combined in utero genetic perturbations and pharmacological inhibition of putative modulators of early activity, such as selected ion channels, with RNA-sequencing and live imaging technologies to identify the activity-regulated processes that control the development of different cortical PN classes, their wiring, and the acquisition of subtype-specific features. In addition, by differentiating 3D cortical organoids from human pluripotent stem cells, to assess early electrical activity in human models, we investigated the molecular, structural, and functional consequences of activity alterations during development. This integrated analysis will provide insight into how spontaneous patterns are formed and how neuronal diversity can influence the early activity of cortical neurons.

Simona Lodato received her M.S./B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy, in 2006, and her Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the European School of Molecular Medicine (SEMM) in 2011. During her doctoral studies, she investigated the molecular mechanisms that control the generation of inhibitory interneuron subtypes during the development of the cerebral cortex, under the supervision of Michèle Studer at the Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine (TIGEM). As a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Paola Arlotta in the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University, she unveiled fundamental aspects of the molecular logic behind the acquisition of subtype specific projection neuron (PN) identity. She also discovered that the subtype-specific PN identity impacts the behavior of cortical INs, controlling the development of functional networks in the cerebral cortex. In December 2016, she has been elected member of the Next Generation Leader Advisory Council, a group of eighteen esteemed early-career scientists who act as scientific advisors for the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle (WA), USA, where she will serve until 2019. Since May 2017, Dr. Lodato is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Humanitas University in Milan, Italy.