What's special about developmental timing in humans?

Raised of $1,550 Goal
Ended on 8/30/17
Campaign Ended
  • $26
  • 2%
  • Finished
    on 8/30/17

About This Project

We humans develop for a really long time. Are certain aspects of our development especially late or early relative to other animals? To answer these questions, we are gathering large amounts of data in a number of species to identify what about our developmental timing is unique to humans and our close relatives.

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What is the context of this research?

Previously, researchers would debate about how to find equivalent developmental time points across species, using a few milestones as a rough way to identify equivalent ages between species. This led to much debate among the scientific community. Our work moves science forward because we gather large amounts of data across many stages of development to find equivalent developmental ages between humans and other species. We can also use these data to identify developmental milestones that are either very early or late in humans.

What is the significance of this project?

This work has several direct applications. Researchers rely on neurodevelopment data obtained from non-human species such as rats and mice to make inferences about developmental timing in humans. In our previous work, we launched a web site (http://www.translatingtime.net) that finds equivalent ages across mammalian species, including mice, rats, cats, dogs, and humans. It is essential to be able to relate studies across different experimental animals, and relate these findings to humans. This work can be used to identify what aspects of our developmental are shared with other species and which aspects of development are unique to humans or primates.

What are the goals of the project?

The model currently integrates a large dataset of over 1,000 empirically-derived neural events to translate neurodevelopment time across 18 mammalian species (placental and marsupial mammals) including hamsters, mice, rats, cats, and humans. We are currently seeking funds to publish our findings. We gathered high resolution MRI scans and sectioned material throughout stages of development in various species to show that cells in select brain regions continue to proliferate for much longer than expected in humans compared with mice. In the long term, we plan to gather additional data to find equivalent maturational time points across the lifespan of species. We would finally be able to tell how old your adult cat really is!


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We are seeking funds to cover publication and presentation costs for one portion of this work. The more funds we receive, the more we can compare developmental timing across species and identify what aspects of developmental timing are unique to humans or primates.

Endorsed by

How do our brains work and why? It's hard to think of a more interesting and important question. Dr. Charvet is on the cutting edge of evolutionary neuroscience and is uniquely situated to address questions like this. Christine's work on the developmental mechanisms underlying evolutionary changes in the brain is exceptional. Please support her efforts to further publicize this research and to update and modernize the "Translating Time" website.

Flag iconProject Timeline

One portion of the project is very close to complete and we anticipate that our work will be published by the end of the year. With additional funds, we would be able to extend the database to include maturational events that span the lifespan.

Jul 31, 2017

Project Launched

Sep 09, 2017

Presentation of the work

Nov 01, 2017

Publication of present work 

Meet the Team

Christine Charvet
Christine Charvet
Postdoctoral Associate


Cornell University
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Barbara L Finlay
Barbara L Finlay
WR Kenan Professor of Psychology, Emeritus


Cornell University
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Christine Charvet

I was always fascinated by the behavior and biology of animals. I obtained my PhD in 2010 in neurobiology and behavior from the University of California, Irvine. There I studied evolution and development of birds such as songbirds. These birds are really interesting. Just like humans they learn vocalizations during a critical period, early in development. I then obtained postdoctoral training in evolutionary neuroscience at Cornell University working with Dr. Barbara Finlay. We work on finding equivalent developmental timing points between species. We launched a website to make these data readily accessible to researchers to enable them to find equivalent developmental time points between species (http://www.translatingtime.net). I also obtained postdoctoral training in neuroimaging at Harvard Medical School. These non-invasive techniques allow us to compare developmental milestones between species on a large scale.

Barbara L Finlay

Dr. Finlay is a Professor of Psychology at Cornell University. Dr. Finlay published a very influential article in Science in 1995 linking developmental timing with brain structure in evolution. Dr Finlay and her colleagues have amassed a large body of data on developmental timing across a broad range of animals to find equivalent development ages between species.

Lab Notes

Nothing posted yet.

Additional Information

Here is some of our previously published work:

Cahalane DJ, Charvet CJ, Finlay BL. 2014. Modeling local and cross-species neuron number variations in the cerebral cortex as arising from a common mechanism. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 111(49):17642-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1409271111.

Workman AD, Charvet CJ, Clancy B, Darlington RB, Finlay BL. 2013. Modeling transformations of neurodevelopmental sequences across mammalian species. J Neurosci. 33(17):7368-83. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5746-12.2013.

Finlay BL, Darlington RB. 1995. Linked regularities in the development and evolution of mammalian brains. Science. 268(5217):1578-84.

Project Backers

  • 3Backers
  • 2%Funded
  • $26Total Donations
  • $8.67Average Donation
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