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Publication Summary and Abstract

James, S. S., Krubitzer, L. A. and Wilson, S. P. (2020), Modelling the emergence of whisker barrels, eLife, eLife.55588.

Brain development relies on an interplay between genetic specification and self-organization. Striking examples of this relationship can be found in the somatosensory brainstem, thalamus, and cortex of rats and mice, where the arrangement of the facial whiskers is preserved in the arrangement of cell aggregates to form precise somatotopic maps. We show in simulation how realistic whisker maps can self-organize, by assuming that information is exchanged between adjacent cells only, under the guidance of gene expression gradients. The resulting model provides a simple account of how patterns of gene expression can constrain spontaneous pattern formation to faithfully reproduce functional maps in subsequent brain structures.
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