Pierre Vanderhaeghen Lab

Research focus

​The major research goal in our laboratory is to understand the mechanisms controlling the development and evolution of the cerebral cortex, from stem cells to neuronal networks, from mouse to man.
The cerebral cortex is one of the most complex and important structures in our brain. In correlation with its elaborate functions, it is characterized by a huge diversity of neuronal identities, each cortical neuron displaying specific patterns of gene expression and synaptic connectivity. The mechanisms of formation of cortical networks have direct relevance to several diseases, such as epilepsy, autism, and mental disorders, as well as for the development of rationally designed cell therapies for neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or stroke.

A first set of projects is centered on the mouse model, where we combine molecular and cellular approaches to study intrinsic and extrinsic factors in cortical development, both in vivo (using mouse transgenesis and in utero electroporation) and in vitro (using organotypic assays).

In a second set of projects centered on human embryonic stem (ES), and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, we use innovative models to study human cortex development as well as neurodegenerative diseases.

In a third set of projects centered on human cortex development, we try to identify and study the function of genes that may link the development and evolution of human-specific features in our brain.


Human-Specific NOTCH2NL Genes Expand Cortical Neurogenesis through Delta/Notch RegulationSuzuki I, Gacquer D, Van Heurck R, Kumar D, Wojno M, Bilheu A, Herpoel A, Lambert N, Cheron J, Polleux F, Detours V, Vanderhaeghen PCELL, 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, Acosta-Verdugo S, Benoit-Marand M, Espuny-Camacho I, Gaspard N, Saha B, Gaillard A, Vanderhaeghen PNEURON, 85, 982-97, 2015
Pyramidal neurons derived from human pluripotent stem cells integrate efficiently into mouse brain circuits in vivoEspuny-Camacho I, Michelsen K, Gall D, Linaro D, Hasche A, Bonnefont J, Bali C, Orduz D, Bilheu A, Herpoel A, Lambert N, Gaspard N, Peron S, Schiffmann S, Giugliano M, Gaillard A, Vanderhaeghen PNEURON, 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, Iacovino M, Kyba M, Bouschet T, Vanderhaeghen PNATURE 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 PNATURE, 455, 351-7, 2008

Job openings


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