The goal of our work is to understand the relationships between genes, the assembly of neural networks and the function of these networks. The vertebrate brain is immensely complex, yet it has a very consistent architecture that is preserved among individuals and across species. This conserved architecture is the result of a developmental program driven by the concerted action of an evolutionarily conserved set of genes. So, to understand the relationship of genes to behavior, it is necessary to recognize that the role of genes is to guide development, the outcome of which is a distribution of neurons and the connections between them, and that this pattern governs brain function. Genetic mutations that give rise to behavioral changes do so by altering development to disrupt brain structure.
To address these questions, we study a family of cell surface molecules, the protocadherins, and their roles in the development of the zebrafish nervous system. The zebrafish is particularly amenable to studying neural development,