Research Overview

My research passion is to understand the diverse mechanisms that contribute to formation of neural circuits. Defects in developmental processes result in cortical malformation and neuropsychiatric diseases.  We are studying individuals with neurological diseases, and validating novel genes variants and cellular mechanisms of pathogenicity.


Recent Projects

A.  Role for sodium channels in the development of the cerebral cortex”.  Evaluating patients with cerebral cortex malformation diseases, we identified a novel role for a sodium channel, SCN3A, in the developing human cortex. This developmental disease has roots in neurons and dividing cells in the fetal human cortex.  From: Sodium Channel SCN3A (NaV1.3) Regulation of Human Cerebral Cortical Folding and Oral Motor Development




B.  Development of novel iPS cell based models for studying neurodevelopmental diseases”. Using human iPS cells engineered with calcium indicators, we have developed a platform for screening genes and validating downstream targets. Using high-throughput approaches, we can perform targeted pharmacology.



C.  “Ion conducting proteins and neurodevelopmental diseases.” We continue to study the many diverse roles of ion channels in the fetal human brain and mouse development models.

The Evolution of a Complex Cortical Architecture
Humans and carnivores have evolved larger, more elaborate cerebral cortex evolved to execute more complex behaviors. Figure highlights the surface area expansion, esp. association areas, and increased diversity of neuronal types & projection patterns in the upper cortical layers. Modified images from & Hill & Walsh, 2005


About Richard S. Smith

Dr. Smith completed a Cotutelle PhD from University of Maryland and Université Pierre et Marie Curie, where he studied synaptic physiology in sensory processing circuits. Using whole cell patch clamp, his research highlighted the role of neuromodulators, such as noradrenaline, acetylcholine and GABA, in modulating cellular excitation in principal and inhibitory neurons. In 2015, Richard joined the Walsh Lab in the Division of Genetics at Boston Children’s Hospital and Department of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.  Richard has been a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, Chateaubriand Fellow, NINDS F32 Postdoctoral research Fellow, and NIMH LRP Awardee.  

Walsh Lab Website for more information.

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