Prof. Eve Seuntjens, KU Leuven, Belgium
Prof. Eve Seuntjens, Principal Investigator of the Developmental Neurobiology group in the Department of Biology at KU Leuven will present her talk: "Building and wiring the unusually large brain of Octopus vulgaris"
Octopus vulgaris is a mollusk, like clams and snails, yet presents unequalled cognitive capacity such as adaptive learning, decision making, forward thinking and planning, combined with innovative behaviours such as millisecond camouflage. These behaviours are controlled by a nervous system that resembles mammalian nervous systems in terms of neuronal number and wiring complexity, but is differently organised. Based on phylogeny, it seems cephalopods have evolved this nervous system complexity independently from vertebrates. In that sense, they represent ideal animal models to investigate the molecular mechanisms essential to evolution of large brains.Our team has shown that the Octopus vulgaris hatchling brain arises to a large extent from a neurogenic region around the eye placode. This larval brain is capable of driving innate visually driven hunting and camouflaging behavior, but is still immature. Within the optic lobe cortex, several molecularly distinct cell types are organized in layers. Our research tries to unravel how and when these cell types are being generated, how they are wired up into a network and how this network functions in order to process visual information.