Brain Folding as a Soft Layered Instability: Unique Features and Puzzles

Date(s) - 03/01/2021
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Virtual via Zoom

Maria Holland, Ph.D., Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, University of Notre Dame


During development, instabilities develop in the brain, giving it its characteristic wrinkled shape.  These instabilities are very complex and still not well understood.  In the first part of the talk, I will discuss the sensitivity of soft layered materials such as the brain to small changes in loading and geometry.  In the second part of the talk, I will share our theoretical, computational, physical, and imaging approaches to understanding the role of mechanics in the patterns of cortical thickness in the brain – another unique feature of soft layered instabilities.


Maria Holland is the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, IN.  She earned her M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University in the Department of Mechanical Engineering with Prof. Ellen Kuhl, and her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tulsa, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.  Her research is in computational biomechanics, using solid mechanics and computational tools to address important questions about complex soft materials, including the brain.  Through collaborations with clinicians and experimentalists, she aims to understand the development of the human brain and how it relates to the brain’s form and function.  Additionally, she works to extend the functionality of traditional engineering methods to encompass soft, growing materials. She is passionate about sharing the underappreciated breadth and diversity of biomechanics via fascinating stories on her student blog, Biomechanics in the Wild (