Fenna M. Krienen

Assistant Professor
Ph.D. Harvard University, 2013
255 PNI

Research Focus

How have brain cell types evolved in the human lineage and amongst closely related species? Primates have cognitive capabilities and other higher functions that have a little-known basis in cells and molecules. Part of the challenge lies in the lack of tools to characterize cell types in genetically inaccessible models in a systematic, quantitative way. While conserved biological processes and cell types can and should be studied in more accessible species, primates also have certain cell types, circuits and molecular details that can’t be modeled in other animals.

The research in our lab

  • Develops new tools and approaches to study cell types in mammalian models.
  • Characterizes neurodevelopmental processes that lead to primate brain specializations such as expanded higher-order association cortex and cortico-cortical connectivity.
  • Applies scalable molecular analyses of disease relevant mutations in primates and other species to inform models of human brain disorders such as autism.

We draw on single cell genomics to characterize genetic, molecular, and anatomical properties of brain cell types in different mammals. We employ multi-modal technologies to identify cell-type specific regulatory elements, and with these develop viral tools to enable access and control of specific cell types and circuits. These efforts teach us about the evolution of genome regulation, which we also hope will lead to a better understanding of the significance of non-coding variation in humans.

We are affiliated to the Princeton Neuroscience graduate program and the Quantitative Computational Biology (QCB) program.

Related Links

Princeton Neuroscience Institute
Research Area
Systems & Circuits
Molecular & Cellular