Rachel Mckeown

University Position
PhD student


I am investigating the interactions of chemical and long-range mechanical signals in nervous system development. I study the process of axon pathfinding, whereby the growth cones at the tip of extending axons interpret cues in their environment to direct them to their target, with which they form synaptic connections. This process is important in establishing appropriate connectivity and hence mature nervous system function. Much research has focused on the roles of attractive and repulsive proteins, but more recently the mechanical environment of developing axons has been explored. Axons can sense substrate stiffness to regulate their growth behaviour. Brain tissue is also mechanically heterogeneous in space and time. My work investigates the cross-talk between mechanical and chemical signals, using the retinotectal system of Xenopus laevis as a model. Understanding this interplay could have implications for neurodevelopmental disorders and even regeneration.

Key Publications