Pierre Vanderhaeghen Lab

Research focus

The major research goal in our laboratory is to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the development and evolution of the cerebral cortex, from stem cells to neuronal circuits, from mouse to man, in health and disease. 

The cerebral cortex is one of the most complex and important structures in our brain. In correlation with its elaborate functions, it is made of dozens of distinct types of neurons that display specific patterns of gene expression and synaptic connectivity. Moreover the cortex underwent a major increase in size and complexity during recent primate and human evolution, mostly related to increased neuronal number and connectivity. 

How does cortical complexity emerge during human development, from early steps of neurogenesis to late steps of neuronal circuit formation? And how did this complexity increase during evolution? What is specific to human brain development and how does it relate to uniquely human brain diseases such as autism or neurodegeneration?

We try to address these fascinating questions using an integrated approach that combines in vitro and in vivo tools of developmental biology, neurobiology, and pluripotent (ESC/iPSC) stem cell technology.


Human-Specific NOTCH2NL Genes Expand Cortical Neurogenesis through Delta/Notch RegulationSuzuki Ikuo Gacquer D Van Heurck Roxane Kumar Devesh Wojno Marta Bilheu A Herpoel A Lambert N Cheron J Polleux F Detours V Vanderhaeghen PierreCELL, 173, 1370-1384 e16, 2018
Area-specific reestablishment of damaged circuits in the adult cerebral cortex by cortical neurons derived from mouse embryonic stem cellsMichelsen K. A Acosta-Verdugo S Benoit-Marand M Espuny-Camacho I Gaspard N Saha B Gaillard A Vanderhaeghen PierreNEURON, 85, 982-97, 2015
Pyramidal neurons derived from human pluripotent stem cells integrate efficiently into mouse brain circuits in vivoEspuny-Camacho I Michelsen K. A Gall D Linaro D Hasche A Bonnefont J. P Bali C Orduz D Bilheu A Herpoel A Lambert N Gaspard N Peron S Schiffmann S Giugliano M. Gaillard A Vanderhaeghen PierreNEURON, 77, 440-56, 2013
BCL6 controls neurogenesis through Sirt1-dependent epigenetic repression of selective Notch targetsTiberi L Van Den Ameele J Dimidschstein J Piccirilli J Gall D Herpoel A Bilheu A Bonnefont J. P Iacovino M Kyba M Bouschet T Vanderhaeghen P.NATURE NEUROSCIENCE, 15, 1627-35, 2012
An intrinsic mechanism of corticogenesis from embryonic stem cellsGaspard N Bouschet T Hourez R Dimidschstein J Naeije G Van Den Ameele J Espuny-Camacho I Herpoel A Passante L Schiffmann S Gaillard A Vanderhaeghen P.NATURE, 455, 351-7, 2008

Job openings


Transplanting human nerve cells into a mouse brain reveals how they wire into brain circuits

21/11/2019 - ​A team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Vincent Bonin (VIB-KU Leuven, ULB and NERF) showed how human nerve cells can develop at their own pace, and form highly precise connections with the surrounding mouse brain cells.

To become, or not to become... a neuron

25/07/2019 - Researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Jérôme Bonnefont (VIB-KU Leuven and ULB) have unraveled a new mechanism controlling the switch between growth and differentiation of neural stem cells during brain development.

How did human brains get so large?

31/05/2018 - The human brain is a remarkable organ, but how did it evolve to give us such unprecedented cognitive abilities? The research team of Pierre Vanderhaeghen (ULB, VIB-KU Leuven) turned to the genome for answers.

Pierre Vanderhaeghen

Pierre Vanderhaeghen

Research area(s)

Model organism(s)


PhD: Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Brussels, Belgium, 1996
Postdoctoral Fellow: Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA, 1996-2000
Professor: IRIBHM and ULB Neuroscience Inst., ULB, Brussels, Belgium
Visiting Group leader VIB since January 2013​
Group leader VIB as of January 2018

Contact Info

VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease ResearchO&N 4, 6e verdCampus GasthuisbergHerestraat 49, bus 602 3000 LEUVENRoute description