Reading Club

Brains Through Time

A Natural History of Vertebrates



by Georg Striedter and Glenn Northcutt


You can watch all previous sessions in our youtube channel.

Calendar

Chapter 1. Reconstructing history. 6th of October (2021)

Session plan:

  • 5-minute introduction of the reading club.

  • Book overview by Georg Striedter.

  • 15-minute presentation of the main ideas of chapter 1.

  • 1-hour discussion + questions from participants. With the participation of Georg Striedter, Luis Puelles and Paul Cisek.


Did you miss it? Watch it here!:

You can also find here a quick summary of the chapter.


Let us know your thought about the first session HERE!


Chapter 2. The Origin of Vertebrates: Invertebrate Chordates and Cyclostomes. 1st of December (2021)

Session plan:

  • 5-minute reminder of main ideas discussed in session 1.

  • 20-minute presentation of the main ideas of chapter 2.

  • 1.5-hour discussion + questions from participants divided in three sections in which Maria Tosches, Luis Puelles and Paul Cisek presented three key ideas of chapter 2:

    • Maria Tosches: the origin of neurons and nervous systems.

    • Luis Puelles: Amphioxus forebrain subdivisions and the implications for the evolution of given vertebrate functional aspects.

    • Paul Cisek: The brain of lampreys.



Did you miss it? Watch it here!:

You can also find here a quick summary of the chapter.


Let us know your thought about the first session HERE!


Chapter 3. The origin of jaws and paired fins. 23rd of February (2022)

Session plan:

  • 5-minute reminder of main ideas discussed in session 2.

  • 20-minute presentation of the main ideas of chapter 3.

  • 1.5-hour discussion + questions from participants divided in two sections in which Leonard Maler, Idoia Quintana-Urzainqui presented two fundamental ideas of chapter 3:

    • Leonard Maler focused on a specialized caudal portion of the cerebellum of teleost fish whose structure and physiology has been especially well studies to the point that we now have detailed computational analyses of its function.

    • Idoia Quintana-Urzainqui talked about what sharks can tell us about the evolution of the telencephalon, mainly focusing on the evolutionary expansion of the pallium and how shark embryos can hold key information to interpret the origin of the developmental processes that triggered this phenomenon.


Did you miss it? Watch it here!:

Let us know your thought about the first session HERE!


Chapter 4. The Invasion of Land. 27th of April (2022)

Session plan:

  • 5-minute reminder of main ideas discussed in session 3.

  • 20-minute presentation of the main ideas of chapter 4.

  • 1.5-hour discussion + questions from participants divided in two sections in which Malcolm MacIver and Luis Puelles presented two main ideas of chapter 4:

    • The water-land transition and its implications for the visual system.

    • Anamniote thalamic evolution and thalamo-telencephalic connections (centered on amphibians).

Chapter 5. The Conquest of Land. 15th of June (2022)

Session plan:

  • 20-minute presentation of the main ideas of chapter 5.

  • 1.5-hour discussion + questions from participants divided in two sections in which Maria Tosches and Loreta Medina presented two main ideas of chapter 5:

    • Homologies and convergence of the sauropsid's Pallium.

    • How to do a good cell-type profiling and what we can and cannot infer from it.

Speakers

Organizers

For more info contact: the.braining.club@gmail.com.

About the Reading Club


The aim of the BTT reading club is to learn about the evolutionary history of the vertebrate brain and to promote the discussion between distant fields in neuroscience about the consequences that such history has for our understanding of modern brains. We will follow the book Brains Through Time, by Georg Striedter and Glenn Northcutt, chapter by chapter in sessions of 120 minutes. For each session, we will count with the participation of experts from different disciplines that are interested in the topics discussed in the corresponding chapter.


Main goals


The vertebrate brain is the result of millions of years of evolution, a slow but relentless trial-and-error process that has found key innovations permitting the exploitation of the environment in novel and ever more sophisticated ways.


The first goal of the BTT Reading Club is to learn the history of these innovations. Brains Through Time does an extraordinary job at explaining in detail not only these key changes undergone by the vertebrate brain but also the environment in which those changes took place.


Our second goal is to question how much of this detailed history we need to know in order to understand the brain of modern vertebrates. In the same way that ignoring all that knowledge would seem like a terrible mistake, we may risk wasting much of our precious time if we try to take into account every small detail of the evolution of the brain to try to make sense of it.


A third goal, related to the previous one, is to discuss how much we need to understand the brain and the way it was created, to produce an intelligent artificial system. The highly successful Machine Learning techniques that are nowadays applied to many different problems in industry, start from an already evolved (and developed) network that only needs to learn the statistics of the patterns it encounters to maximize an a priori defined goal. Is this enough? Could we incorporate some of the tricks used by evolution to improve the performance of current machine learning methods?


Addressing these goals will require the ideas and the questions from very distant fields, from Evo-Devo to Systems and Computational Neuroscience and Machine Learning. Therefore, a final goal of the BTT Reading Club is to boost the discussion between very different fields in neuroscience, with the hope that together we can find the right questions to ask in the enormous challenge that is understanding the brain.