Zoltán Molnár is Professor of Developmental Neuroscience at the University of Oxford. He is known for key contributions to our understanding of how the birth of cortical neurons is regulated, how they migrate, differentiate, generate axons and how the thalamocortical projections are guided to the cerebral cortex and how the thalamic afferents interact with the earliest transient cortical circuits. These match spontaneous and sensory-driven activity to establish the mature circuits, and these continue to change over time, partly as a result of the activity passing through them. Molnár pioneered the identification of layer and cell-type specific markers including the early and largely transient subplate neurons; this meant that he could selectively monitor and manipulate them at various stages of development, including their remnants as layer 6b in the adult. He described stage specific intra- and extra-cortical integration of the subplate neurons during development and discovered a new type of cortico-thalamo-cortical circuit established by layer 6b neurons. His research revealed how thalamic connectivity shapes the developing cortex and how the cortex regulates its own state during sensory perception and sleep. By examining and comparing these mechanisms in various species, including humans, he showed how specific alterations of developmental mechanisms at the pallial subpallial boundary and in the cortical germinal zones have led to the evolution of the mammalian cerebral cortex.
Elected Member of Academia Europaea (Physiology and Neuroscience) 2018; Fellow of Royal Society of Biology (2022); Einstein Visiting Fellow at Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany 2020-2024; Elected Fellow of the Anatomical Society; received the New Fellow of the Year Award 2018.