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Keywords:

  • fibroblast growth factor;
  • forebrain;
  • hippocampus;
  • neurogenesis;
  • patterning

Despite substantial and exciting recent progress in our understanding of developmental processes in the cerebral cortex, there is still much to be learned about the molecular and cellular mechanisms that account for formation of the cortical structures, and in turn, how the regulation of these mechanisms is linked to cortical functions and behaviors in animals and humans. Fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) are a classic family of growth factors that are important in neural development and whose structures and signaling have been well-studied molecularly and biochemically. Recent advances have revealed their diverse but specific functions in patterning and neurogenesis during cortical development, as evidenced by multiple experimental approaches using in vivo models. Importantly, changes in FGF signaling during development have been shown to influence structure and function of the cerebral cortex as well as animal behavior, and have been implicated in disorders of nervous system function and intellectual development in humans. For example, disturbance of FGF pathways during development has been implicated in the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorders. Experimental models with altered cortical structure due to perturbations of FGF signaling present a unique opportunity whereby molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie cortical function and animal behavior can be directly studied and linked to each other.