The outer layer of the human brain, the cortex, has a highly folded structure that emerges in utero. The cortex itself has a complex structure, with six discrete layers and a consistent pattern of thick gyri (outer ridges) and thin sulci (inner valleys). In our research group, we use the tools of computational mechanics to investigate the mechanisms behind these features. We have shown that the systematic cortical thickness variations seen in the brain are likely a consequence of both heterogeneous growth and the forces generated during the extensive folding of the cortex. In this talk, I will lay the foundation for the mechanical hypothesis of cortical thickness variations, and explore these consistent patterns during third trimester gestational development, in adult humans, and in non-human primates. Additionally, I will discuss our recent computational model that captures the contributions of distinct neuronal cohorts to the formation of the cortical layers.
About the Speaker
Maria Holland is an Assistant Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, IN. She earned her M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University in the Department of Mechanical Engineering with Prof. Ellen Kuhl, and her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tulsa, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. Her research is in computational biomechanics, using solid mechanics and computational tools to address important questions about complex soft materials, including the brain. Through collaborations with clinicians and experimentalists, she aims to understand the development of the human brain and how it relates to the brain’s form and function. Additionally, she works to extend the functionality of traditional engineering methods to encompass soft, growing materials. Her work has been supported by the NSF CAREER award, the NIGMS MIRA, and an NINDS R01. She is also passionate about sharing the underappreciated breadth and diversity of biomechanics via fascinating stories on her student blog, Biomechanics in the Wild (https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://sites.nd.edu/biomechanics-in-the-wild/__;!!DZ3fjg!_PEwrb8c4bh4nKV_4RZL0FlkZ2hq6mRJGqC8nY2yy6vrLcs4an-0ShfShrUJ4-abWjnsXrC57cCs-MIbBcH5dNDvaA$ ).
Hosts: Professor Callan Luetkemeyer and Professor Mariana Kersh