Swammerdam Lecture – Pierre Vanderhaeghen

SWAMMERDAM LECTURE - Tuesday November 8th 2022 at 16:00

Prof. dr. Pierre Vanderhaeghen

Mechanisms Linking Development and Evolution of the Human Brain

Affiliation Pierre Vanderhaeghen Lab,
VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research, Department of Neurosciences, Leuven Brain Institute, at KULeuven, and  IRIBHM, ULB, Brussels
Date / time Tuesday November 8th 2022,  16:00-17:00
Host dr. Frank Jacobs

Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences
Sciencepark 904, Amsterdam
room G2.10 

Directions: from the main entry of Science Park 904 take the big and wide stairs opposite of the reception to the 1st floor, and follow the 5-minute long route to the G-wing. 

The lecture is followed by a reception

Pierre Vanderhaeghen will give a masterclass for a selected group of ONWAR PhD candidates prior to his lecture (13:30-15:30). See below for more information.

The human cerebral cortex has undergone rapid expansion and complexification during recent evolution. One striking feature of human corticogenesis compared with other species is protracted timing, taking years instead of weeks in the mouse and months in the macaque. The resulting brain neoteny is thought to contribute in an important fashion to enhanced neural circuit complexity and plasticity, but the mechanisms have long remained completely unknown.

In vitro and xenotransplantation models indicate that many species-specific properties of corticogenesis, including developmental timing and neoteny, are largely intrinsic to cortical progenitors and neurons. The molecular mechanisms start to be understood, and include selective divergence in gene regulatory networks, the emergence of human-specific genes, but also species-specific features of mitochondria dynamics and metabolism. These newly discovered mechanisms shed light on human evolution and provide interesting links with brain diseases to which our species is particularly sensitive.

The aim of this Masterclass is to have a highly interactive and stimulating meeting. 


  • ± 5-6 PhD students will be selected to give a 5-8 min presentation to introduce their research dilemma/discussion point(s) that they would like to discuss with Pierre Vanderhaeghen. The presentation should be short to keep ample time for feedback and discussion. It is advised to formulate the questions/discussion points in the last slide. 
  • The total MSc class takes ±2h 
  • PhD supervisors do not attend. 

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