Lawton Lab

Mississippi State University

Department of Biological Sciences

Research Focus

The Lawton Lab investigates how tissue level mechanics, arising from cellular behaviors, direct morphogenesis and organogenesis. The lab uses the murine cerebellum as a genetically tractable model of brain folding. The focus of the lab is to quantitatively describe and understand how the tissue expansion, tension, and cell movement work together to expand and compartmentalize the synaptic volume.

Tissue Folding


Tissue folding is common throughout biology and used to provide structural support or to increased surface area for material exchange. Epithelia in the gut, lungs, teeth, and other tissues all undergo folding-like morphogenetic processes.

During human brain development the cerebellum and cerebral cortex also fold into robust patterns that increase the synaptic volume and compartmentalize neural circuits. Very little developmental data has been available until the establishment of the murine cerebellum as a model of brain folding.

Using in vivo and ex vivo approaches with quantitative image analysis, mechanical measurements, and classical approaches we are investigating how the tissue-level properties found in the cerebellum, including tension and fluidity, emerge from the underlying cellular behaviors and how they lead to proper folding.

The external layer of the cerebellum acts fluid-like due to continual cell mixing during folding