Dr. Shyamala Mani's laboratory is interested in understanding the birth and development of neurons. Her team uses human embryonic stem cells and genetically modified mouse strains to address questions in this area. Broadly, the lab investigates how cells, whether they are embryonic stem cells or precursor cells in the developing brain, give rise to the different kinds of neurons that are present in the adult nervous system. The lab is interested in understanding how external signals coordinate different processes in brain development. A key question is to understand the balance between cell multiplication and cell fate, or what type of nerve cell a precursor cell will develop into. The lab is particularly interested in finding out whether the mechanisms that determine the subtype of neurons are conserved across species. Identifying what factors influence nerve cell fate is important for understanding how diseases develop and for finding new drug targets.