Kenneth Y. Kwan, Ph.D.

Kenneth Kwan, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Human Genetics
Research Assistant Professor of Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience Institute (MBNI)

University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109


Areas of Interest

Evolution of the cerebral cortex is thought to underlie our species’ most remarkable cognitive, perceptive, and motor capabilities, the execution of which depends on the precise establishment of axonal connectivity during development. Miswiring of cortical circuitry can lead to disorders, including autism and schizophrenia, that affect the most distinctly human cognitive functions.

Research in the Kwan laboratory is aimed at the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie normal neural circuit assembly in the cerebral cortex and their dysregulation in human neurodevelopmental disorders, in particular autism spectrum disorder (ASD), fragile X syndrome, and schizophrenia. Our work examines both fundamental and pathogenic mechanisms that can lead to in vivo consequences on neural circuit development and function. We seek to understand: 1) the mechanisms by which neural progenitor cells give rise to diverse repertoires of cortical neuronal subtypes; 2) the mechanisms that ultimately wire cortical neurons into functional neural circuits; and 3) how dysregulation of these mechanisms contributes to disorders of brain development. We use an integrative approach at the interface of mouse genetics, functional genomics, molecular biology, and circuit neurobiology.

Honors & Awards

  • 2016 Fay/Frank Seed Grant Program, Brain Research Foundation
  • 2015 Basil O’Connor Award, March of Dimes Foundation
  • 2014 SFARI Explore Award, Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative 
  • 2012 Pathway to Independence Award, NIMH, National Institutes of Health 
  • 2012 Biological Sciences Scholar, University of Michigan
  • 2012 Neuroscience Scholar, University of Michigan
  • 2012 Finalist, Lap-Chee Tsui Award, Inst. of Genetics, Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • 2008 Krieg Cortical Kudos Scholar Award, Cajal Club
  • 2005 Doctoral Research Award, INMHA, Canadian Institutes of Health Research 
  • 2004 Postgraduate Scholarship, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
  • 1999 Biochem Pharmaceutical Inc. Award, University of Waterloo


  • 2008 Ph.D., Neuroscience, Yale University
  • 2002 B.Sc., Biochemistry, University of Waterloo

Published Articles or Reviews

Shim S, Kwan KY, Li M, Lefebvre V, Sestan N. Cis-regulatory control of corticospinal system development and evolution (2012). Nature, 486: 74-79.

Kwan KY, Lam MMS, Johnson MB, Dube U, Shim S, et al. (2012). Species-dependent post-transcriptional regulation of NOS1 by FMRP in the developing cerebral cortex. Cell, 149: 899-911.

Kwan KY, Sestan N, Anton ES (2012). Transcriptional co-regulation of neuronal migration and laminar identity in the neocortex. Development, 139:1535-1546.

*Barak T, *Kwan KY, Louvi A, Demirbilek V, Saygı S, et al. (2011). Recessive LAMC3 mutations cause malformations of occipital cortical development. Nature Genetics, 43: 590-594. [*equal contributors]

*Kwan KY, *Lam MMS, Krsnik Z, Imamura Kawasawa Y, Lefebvre V, Sestan N (2008). SOX5 postmitotically regulates migration, postmigratory differentiation, and projections of subplate and deep-layer neocortical neurons. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 105: 16021-16026. [*equal contributors]

 *Abelson JF, *Kwan KY, *O'Roak BJ, Baek DY, Stillman AA, et al. (2005). Sequence variants in SLITRK1 are associated with Tourette's syndrome. Science, 310: 317-320. [*equal contributors]


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