Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute
From the very start, the development of the human brain is coordinated by highly specialized gene expression patterns that continue to change not only in prenatal, childhood, or adolescent stages, but also well into adulthood. Leana King's thesis work in the Cognitive Neuroanatomy Lab (P.I. Kevin Weiner) aims to examine this dynamic relationship between gene expression and brain development. As a 4th year PhD student, King's interest in the field of genetics has also grown. From starting out in perceptual and computational neuroscience to now relating development and neuroanatomy to neurogenetics, King finds the same ethical questions centered in genetic research as also relevant to the field of neuroscience more broadly, especially in the era of big data. With large datasets that now have genetic information paired with neuroimaging and behavioral measures or even transcriptomic datasets that contain gene expression information across different brain regions at different developmental windows, the question of ‘how much influence does gene expression have on the brain or even cognition and behavior?’ has become re-popularized in both neuroscience and the public realm. With the Kavli Center Fellowship, King aims to explore the impact of neurogenetic research on education, public policy, and law and develop new ways to improve how it is currently being communicated across different audiences, especially those with non-academic backgrounds.