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Vol. LVIII, No. 10
May 19, 2006

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Solowey Awardee McConnell To Lecture, May 26

Dr. Susan McConnell
The wiring of neuronal circuits occurs early in development of the brain, and Dr. Susan McConnell and her group at Stanford University have identified many of the molecular cues for this precise construction job. On Friday, May 26 at noon in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10, she will be honored for her work by receiving the 2006 Mathilde Solowey Award in the Neurosciences and delivering a lecture titled, "Assembling a Neural Circuit: Wiring Up the Brain During Development."

McConnell has been trying to understand how neurons in the developing cerebral cortex are produced, assigned specific identities and wired together into functional circuits. She and members of her lab have found that the fates of cortical neurons are determined by the time of their final cell division and that cortical progenitor cells progressively lose their competence to respond to fate-inducing cues over time. Time-lapse imaging studies have shown asymmetric cell divisions and the tangential path of cortical neurons en route to their final destinations. Cell biological studies of neuronal migration have demonstrated critical roles for the microtubule and actin/myosin cytoskeletons in regulating cell movement. Finally, McConnell and colleagues have used genetic methods in the mouse to demonstrate that the zinc finger transcription factor Fezl regulates the axonal extensions of layer-5 corticospinal neurons and that BMP and FGF signaling play an important role in early telencephalic patterning and development.

McConnell's research has uncovered the processes that generate formation of precisely wired circuits underlying complex behaviors. This understanding will provide insights into the causes of developmental brain disorders in humans, including schizophrenia, and may ultimately suggest strategies for treating such disorders.

McConnell is the Susan B. Ford professor of biological sciences at Stanford. She received her A.B. degree from Harvard University in 1980 and was awarded her Ph.D. in 1987 from Harvard, where she worked with Simon LeVay. Following postdoctoral training with Carla Shatz at Stanford University School of Medicine, McConnell joined the Stanford faculty in 1989. She has been a Searle scholar, a Pew scholar, a McKnight scholar and a McKnight investigator. She has gained recognition for her research and teaching skills, receiving the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award, a National Science Foundation Presidential Faculty Fellowship and the Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching at Stanford. This year she is inaugural lecturer for the Eric Shooter Lecture Award series, sponsored by the department of neurobiology at Stanford.