The human brain is by far the most complex structure on Earth. Consider that it contains a thousand billion neurons, of a thousand or more different, individual types, and that each neuron is wired up to as many as five hundred other neurons; this allows the possibility for a really vast number of alternative wiring configurations - more, it has been estimated, than there are molecules in the universe. Yet the elaborate pattern of connectional networks between neurons that constitutes the machinery for sensation, movement, emotion and thought, is remarkably similar between individuals. Indeed, the basic plan of the brain - the layout of its command and control centres and all but the smallest details of its wiring diagram - appears to be virtually identical between individual humans and recognisably similar between human and mouse.
Furthermore, this 'ground plan' of the brain is genetically determined, or 'hard wired', leaving only the fine details of network construction to be influenced by the electrical activity of circuits and environmental experience. Such is the complexity of the brain's construction, however, that neurobiologists are still far from a complete structural and functional understanding of its basic operations, such as those we have in common with chickens and mice, let alone even beginning to understand the nature of the higher functions - such as thought and consciousness - of which possibly only the human brain is capable.
It is our goal to further the understanding of this structure through our current research programmes, which are:
Building brains: animal models and tissue engineering
Assembly and Plasticity of Neural Circuits
Course study environment
Students work alongside staff researchers, are supervised by two members of academic staff and overseen by a divisional research co-ordinator. Students' progress is monitored closely and reported on every six months. For more details on study environment see the facilities description in the School entry.
All students are regularly notified about skills development opportunities through a monthly newsletter. Participation in the annual Research Showcase, co-ordinated by the School, is compulsory for all students and provides an opportunity to improve science communication and presentation skills.
Head of group/division
Professor Andrew Lumsden FRS (Centre Director); Professor Corinne Houart (Acting Head of Division)
Contact for information
Postgraduate Admissions Centre at Guy's Campus, tel +44 (0)20 7848 8393; Dr Esther Bell, tel 020 7848 6546; Professor Ian Thompson, tel +44 (0)20 7848 6747