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Katerina Semendeferi

Katerina Semendeferi is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Neuroscience Graduate Program at UC San Diego. Originally from Thessaloniki Greece, she completed her graduate and postgraduate work in Biological Anthropology, Neurosciences and the program in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Iowa in 1994 before joining the faculty at UC San Diego in 1997. Her research on the comparative neuroanatomy of the human brain explores neural systems involved in complex cognitive and emotional processes in humans, apes and other primates,as well as in human mental disorders. Semendeferi is the Director of the Laboratory for Human Comparative Neuroanatomy at UC San Diego.

Starting in graduate school Semendeferi initiated two large scale evolutionary projects. One project involved the coordinated effort to collect ape brain specimens from zoos across the U.S. following the natural death of the animals. The other project involved the application of structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging on the collected brain specimens and on living apes in collaboration with the Yerkes Primate Research Center starting in 1995. These initiatives introduced noninvasive techniques developed for the analysis of human neural tissue to the comparative study of the hominid brain and provided material that led to multiple studies published by her laboratory and others in the area of human brain evolution.

More recently Semendeferi’s research expanded to the study of selected human mental disorders (Publications), that affect aspects of social cognition including autism and Williams Syndrome (Salk Institute). The National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Leakey Foundation for the Study of Human Origins and the Kavli Institute of Brain and Mind at UC San Diego have supported her research over the years.

Semendeferi was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2012.

Although her specialization is in human comparative neuroanatomy and brain evolution, Semendeferi has been exposed to other approaches to the study of human evolution, including the fossil record. She was involved in archeological and paleoanthropological excavations in the United States, Greece, Romania, Turkey, and Vietnam and teaches courses on human evolution and the primate brain. She enjoys working with students and collaborators across fields.

Human Mental Disorders

Morgan*, J.T., Gursharan, C., I. Abramson, K. Semendeferi, E. Courchesne, and I. P. Everall (2012) Abnormal microglial-neuronal spatial organization in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in autism Brain Research1456:72-81.

Teffer*, K and K. Semendeferi (2012) Human prefrontal cortex: evolution, development, and pathology. M. A. Hofman and D. Falk (Eds.) Progress in Brain Research, 195:191-218.

Courchesne, E, Mouton P.R., Calhoun, M.E., Semendeferi, K., Ahrens-Barbeau, C., Hallet, M.J., Carter-Barnes, C., Pierce, K (2011) Neuron Number and Size in Prefrontal Cortex of Children With Autism. JAMA 306(18): 2001-2010.

Morgan*, J.T., Chana, G., Pardo-Villamizar, C., Achim, C., Semendeferi, K., Buckwalter*, J., Courchesne, E., & Everall, I.P. (2010) Increased Microglial Activation and Cell Density in the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex in Autism. Biological Psychiatry, 68:368–376.

Kennedy*, D.P., K. Semendeferi, E. Courchesne  (2007) No reduction of spindle neuron number in frontoinsular cortex in autism. Brain and Cognition, 64:124-129.

Buxhoeveden, D.P., K. Semendeferi, J. Buckwalter*, N. Schenker*, R. Switzer, E. Courchesne (2006) Reduced minicolumns in the frontal cortex of patients with autism. Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology, 32:483-491.

Van Hoesen, G.W., Morecraft, R.J. and Semendeferi, K. (1996) Functional neuroanatomy of the limbic system and prefrontal cortex. In B. Fogel, R.B. Schiffer and S.M. Roa (Eds.) Neuropsychiatry: A Comprehensive Textbook, William & Wilkins, Baltimore, pp. 113-143.

* Indicates that the author is/was an undergraduate, graduate or postdoctoral student  supervised by Semendeferi at the time of manuscript preparation.

Human Brain Evolution

Kate Teffer*, Daniel Buxhoeveden, Cheryl D. Stimpson, Archibald J. Fobbs, Steven J. Schapiro, Wallace B. Baze, Mark J. McArthur, William Hopkins, Patrick Hof, Chet C. Sherwood and K. Semendeferi Developmental changes in the spatial organization of neurons in the neocortex of humans and chimpanzees. Journal of Comparative Neurology, In Press.

Branka Hrvoj*, Maria C. N. Marchetto, Fred H. Gage, K. Semendeferi & Alysson R. Muotri. Novel tools, classic techniques: Evolutionary studies using primate pluripotent stem cells Biological Psychiatry, In Press.

Bianchi S, C.D. Stimpson, A.L.Bauernfield, S.J. Schapiro, W.B. Baze, M.J. McArthur, E. Bronson, W.D. Hopkins, K. Semendeferi, B. Jacobs, P.R. Hof, and C.C. Sherwood.Dendritic morphology of pyramidal neurons in the chimpanzee neocortex: regional specializations and comparisons to humans. Cerebral Cortex, In Press.

A.L. Bauernfeind, A.A. de Sousa, T. Avasthi, S.D. Dobson, M.A. Raghanti, A.H. Lewandowski, K. Zilles, K. Semendeferi, J.M. Allman, A.D. Craig, P.R. Hof, and C.C. Sherwood (2013A volumetric comparison of the insular cortex and its subregions in primates. Journal of Human Evolution 64:263-279

Barger* N, Stefanacci L, Schumann C, Annese J, Sherwood C, Allman J, Buckwalter J,

Hof P and K. Semendeferi (2012) Neuronal populations in the basolateral nuclei of the amygdala are differentially increased in humans compared to apes: A stereological study. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 520(13):3035-3054.

Teffer*, K and K. Semendeferi (2012) Human prefrontal cortex: evolution, development, and pathology.M. A. Hofman and D. Falk (Eds.) Progress in Brain Research, 195:191-218.

Allman,J.M., Tetreault,N.A., Hakeem, A.Y., Kebreten F. Manaye, K. Semendeferi, Joseph M. Erwin, Soyoung Park, Virginie Goubert, and Patrick R. Hof (2011) The von Economo neurons in the frontoinsular and anterior cingulate cortex. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci.1225: 59–71.

Semendeferi, K., K.Teffer*, D.P. Buxhoeveden, M.S. Park*, S. Bludau, K. Amunts, K.Travis*, J. Buckwalter*. (2011) Spatial organization of neurons in the prefrontal cortex sets humans apart from great apes. Cerebral Cortex, 21:1485—1497.

Semendeferi, K., N. *Barger, N. *Schenker (2010) Brain reorganization in humans and apes. In: Human Brain Evolving. D. Broadfield, M. Yuan, N. Toth, and K. Schick (Eds) Stone Age Institute Press (4th volume). David Brown Book Company and Oxbow Books, 119-155.

Allman, J.M., Tetreault, N.A., Hakeem, A.Y., Manaye, K.F., Semendeferi, K., Erwin, J.M., Goubert, V., and Hof, P.R. (2010) The von Economo Neurons in Frontoinsular and Anterior Cingulate Cortex in Great Apes and Humans. Brain Structure and Function,214:495–517.

Carlo, C.N., L. Stefanacci, K. Semendeferi, C.F. Stevens (2010) Comparative analyses of the neuron numbers and volumes of the amygdaloid complex in old and new world primates, Journal of Comparative Neurology, 518(8):1176-1198.

Schenker*, N.M., D.P Buxhoeveden, W.L. Blackmon, K. Amunts, K. Zilles and K. Semendeferi  (2008) A comparative quantitative analysis of cytoarchitectonics and minicolumnar organization in Broca's area in humans and great apes. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 510:117-128.

Schenker*, N., C.C. Sherwood, P.R. Hof, and K. Semendeferi (2007) Microstructural asymmetries of the cerebral cortex in humans and other mammals. In: Special Topics in Primatology, W.D. Hopkins (ed), Elsevier, Inc., pp 92-118.

Barger*, N., Stefanacci, L., Semendeferi, K. (2007) A comparative volumetric analysis of the amygdaloid complex and basolateral division in the human and ape brain. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 134(3):392-403.

Park*, M.S., Nguyen, A.D., Aryan, H.E., Sang, H., Levy, M.L., Semendeferi, K.  (2007)Evolution of the human brain: Changing brain size and the fossil record. Neurosurgery60:555-562.

Sherwood, C.C., Holloway, R.L., Semendeferi, K., Hof, P.R. (2005) Is prefrontal white matter enlargement a human evolutionary specialization? Nature Neuroscience 8(5):537-538.

Schenker*, N., Desgouttes*, A.M and Semendeferi, K. (2005) Neural connectivity and cortical substrates of cognition in hominoids. Journal of Human Evolution 49:547-569.

Sherwood, C.C., Hof, P.R., Holloway, R.L., Semendeferi, K., Gannon, P.J., Frahm, H., and Zilles, K.  (2005) Evolution of the brainstem orofacial motor system in primates: a comparative quantitative study of trigeminal, facial and hypoglossal motor nuclei.

Journal of Human Evolution, 48:45-84.

Sherwood CC, Holloway RL, Gannon PJ, Semendeferi K, Erwin JM, Zilles K, and Hof PR (2003) Neuroanatomical basis of facial expression in monkeys, apes, and humans. Ann. N Y Acad. Sci. 1000:1-5.

Semendeferi, K., *Lu, A., *Schenker, N., and Damasio, H. (2002)  Humans and great apes share a large frontal cortex. Nature Neuroscience 5(3):272-276.

Semendeferi, K.  (2001) Advances in the study of hominoid brain evolution: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and 3D reconstruction. In D. Falk and K. Gibson (Eds.) Evolutionary Anatomy of the Primate Cerebral Cortex Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Semendeferi, K., Schleicher, A., Zilles, K, Armstrong, E. and Van Hoesen, G.W. (2001)Prefrontal cortex in humans and apes: A comparative study of area 10. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 114(3):224-241.

Semendeferi, K. (2001) Before or after the split? Hominid neural specializations.  In A. Nowell  (Ed.) In the Mind’s Eye: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the evolution of Human Cognition.  University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, International Monograph Series, pp 107-120.

Semendeferi, K. and Damasio, H.  (2000) The brain and its main anatomical subdivisions in living hominoids using magnetic resonance imaging. Journal of Human Evolution, 38: 317-332.

Semendeferi, K. (1999) The frontal lobes of the great apes with a focus on the gorilla and the orangutan. In S.T. Parker, R.W. Mitchell and H.L. Miles (Eds.) The Mentality of Gorillas and Orangutans: Comparative Perspectives, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K., pp. 70-95.

Semendeferi, K., Armstrong, E., Schleicher, A., Zilles, K., and Van Hoesen, G.W. (1998) Limbic frontal cortex in hominoids: A comparative study of area 13. American Journal of Physical  Anthropology, 106:129-155.

Semendeferi, K., Damasio, H., Frank, R. and Van Hoesen, G.W. (1997) The evolution of the frontal lobes: a volumetric analysis based on three-dimensional reconstructions of magnetic resonance scans of human and ape brains. Journal of Human Evolution, 32: 375-388.

* Indicates that the author is/was an undergraduate, graduate or postdoctoral student  supervised by Semendeferi at the time of manuscript preparation.