“What Can a Tiny Fish Teach Us About Left-Right Differences in the Brain?”

A prevalent myth in popular culture is that one brain hemisphere is dominant over the other; left-brained individuals are rational, analytical and objective while right-brainers are intuitive, artistic and emotional. Such ideas are not solidly based in science, although each side of the brain does execute specialized functions. Marnie Halpern, Staff Member of the Carnegie Institution for Science and Adjunct Professor in the Biology and Neuroscience Departments of the Johns Hopkins University will review some of the scientific literature on lateralization of brain functions across the animal kingdom and describe her lab’s work on left-right differences in the developing brain of zebrafish, a valuable vertebrate research model.

A native of Canada, Marnie Halpern received her B.S. in biology from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and her Master’s degree at the McMaster University Medical Center. She went on to Yale to obtain her Ph.D. in Biology, and carried out post-doctoral research at the University of Oregon. She joined Carnegie’s Department of Embryology in 1994 and was selected as a Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences in 1995. Halpern has organized many professional meetings and has served on numerous scientific advisory boards. Between 2001 and 2007 she was on the editorial board for Developmental Biology, from 2002 to 2006 a managing editor for Mechanisms of Development and Editor-in-Chief for Current Opinion in Genetics and Development from 2014 to 2017. She was chair of the Educating About Evolution subcommittee of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology from 2005 to 2008 and is currently on a subcommittee that oversees publications describing scientific breakthroughs for a general audience. She has been a panel member for the American Cancer Society, Damon Runyon Fellowship program, NIH, NSF and several international foundations. Halpern won the 2003 Mossman Developmental Biologist Award of the American Association of Anatomists. She is a member of the Genetics Society of America, the Society of Developmental Biology, the Society of Neuroscience, and in 2014 was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2017, she received a NIH MERIT award to support her research on the brain.

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