Despite significant leaps in the field of neurodevelopment, a deeper understanding of the molecular and genetic events implicated in normal and abnormal neural development remains to be explored. The current phase of Siobhan Pattwell’s research employs genetic mouse models to explore how variations of common neural receptors contribute to the development of particular cells and structures within the brain. Through exploring developmental, behavioral, and molecular aspects of both normal and aberrant neural plasticity, her research seeks to better understand the developing brain.
My plans for the fellowship period
Throughout the next several years, I plan to continue the neurodevelopmental work I have started, as both a graduate student and postdoc at Weill Cornell Medical College, (New York, NY) and postdoc at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Seattle, WA). Thus far, I have been fortunate to work on a series of neurodevelopmentally focused projects that have spanned various fields, mentors, laboratories, and institutions, all while enhancing my knowledge base and contributing to my passion for neurobiological research. Through future collaborations with current and former Jacobs Research Foundation Fellows, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of both normal and abnormal neurodevelopment. Additionally, through investigating the molecular and genetic players that shape the typically developing nervous system, this research has the potential to better inform treatment options for a wide range of pediatric and adolescent conditions. Through uncovering key developmental trajectories, this research seeks to inform when, during development, particular interventions might be most effective for aiding vulnerable pediatric and adolescent populations.
How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives?
While advances in psychiatry, oncology, and neuroscience have shed remarkable light on the neural plasticity involved in illnesses of the central nervous system, the majority of research studies have exploited the fine-tuned adult brain. As such, various pharmacological and behavioral therapies used for the treatment of a broad range of medical conditions – from learning disabilities to psychiatric illnesses to brain tumors – have been developed according to a physiologically mature neural framework. Such existing therapies and medications undoubtedly offer significant benefit to adult patients, yet a comparative lack of knowledge about the dynamic neural circuitry of children and adolescents prohibits similarly successful treatment outcomes. Through exploring developmental, behavioral, and molecular aspects of both normal and aberrant neural plasticity, my research seeks to better understand the developing brain.
This research will allow us to better characterize both normative and abnormal developmental plasticity in order to gain a more precise understanding how the system should grow, function, and signal normally – informing developmental biology, cancer biology, neurobiology, and psychiatry alike – while offering novel insights toward optimizing treatments for a wide range of pediatric brain conditions.