Welcome to the Meyer lab! Our lab is interested in understanding how nervous systems evolved. Nervous systems are complex, highly integrated animal organ systems capable of storing information (memory), sensing the environment, controlling behavior, and processing and integrating multiple types of information simultaneously. Multiple groups of animals throughout the Bilateria possess centralized nervous systems – vertebrates have an anterior brain and dorsal nerve cord, whereas annelids (segmented worms) and arthropods (insects and crustaceans) have an anterior brain and a ventral nerve cord. However, the earliest branching animals (e.g., comb jellies and jellyfish) have non-centralized nervous systems, or nerve nets. This raises the question of how and when centralized nervous systems evolved. Most of the modern molecular descriptions of neurogenesis come from only two of the three major bilaterian clades, the deuterostomes (e.g., vertebrates) and the ecdysozoans (e.g., arthropods). There remains a huge gap in our knowledge of central nervous system development in the third bilaterian clade, the spiralians (e.g., annelids). By studying central nervous system development in annelids, my lab hopes to make significant contributions to our understanding of the basic mechanisms of neurogenesis in annelids and to our understanding of the evolution of centralized nervous systems.
One major goal of our research program is to elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms driving neural fate specification during brain and ventral nerve cord development in the spiralian annelid Capitella teleta. To learn more about our research, visit the “Research” page above.
This fall (2014), I am teaching Neuroscience (BIOL 143) and a seminar in Evolutionary Developmental Biology (BIOL 239). BIOL 143 is an introduction to neuroscience that explores the biology of nervous systems and their relationship to behavior and disease. BIOL 239 covers a broad range of topics in evolutionary developmental biology, or “evo-devo”, which is a fascinating field of biology that integrates organismal evolutionary biology with molecular embryology, genetics, and genomics. The goal of evo-devo is to elucidate how changes in developmental processes have given rise to the incredible biological diversity seen in nature.
In the spring of 2015, I will be on sabbatical. In spring 2016, I will teach Comparative and Human Physiology (BIOL 240) with a lab component. This course is an introduction to the physical and chemical functions that maintain animal, including human, life. I will also teach a Developmental Biology (BIOL 239) with a new lab.