Measuring morphogenesis of the embryonic brain.

Mathematics and Statistics: Nessy Tania (Smith College)
Biological Sciences: Michael Barresi (Smith College)

After a neuron is born in the developing brain, it sends out a long axon, led by a dynamically motile growth cone. Pathfinding axons must decide whether or not to cross the midline from one hemisphere of the brain to the other, thus forming a commissure. Using transgenic tools to label axons and glial cells in vivo, we are proposing to conduct high-resolution laser scanning confocal time lapse microscopy of commissure formation. This type of imaging will generate enormous 4D data sets to analyze. Mathematical analysis of the data sets, as well as modeling of glial cell morphology and movements in response to growing axons will be critical to understanding the biological formation of commissures.