A growing brain is a complex dynamical, bio-mechanical system. As such, its possible shapes are strongly constrained by mechanical instabilities, similar to those that sculpt snowflakes and mountains. Our aim is to understand the role that mechanical morphogenetic processes play in the development and evolution of the brain. For this, we use biomechanical models grounded in the physics of soft matter, as well as a large variety of vertebrate species. Our main model of brain development is the ferret, for which we have collected a large database of MRI and microscopy data. Our comparative studies include more that 70 primate species, within a total of more than 250 vertebrate species.
Internship projects can focus on the development of biomechanical models, especially the link between the development of brain folding and the way in which it can regulate axonal growth. This would require working on the physics of elasticity and growth using our Python-based framework. Internship projects could also focus on the evolution of brain anatomy across vertebrates using computational neuroanatomy tools and phylogenetic comparative methods in R and Python. In our research the quantitative/technological components and the neurobiological components are equally valuable and mutually enriching, and we are particularly interested in this type of mixed background.