The research publications of Joseph Altman and Shirley A. Bayer

The Laboratory of Developmental Neurobiology has been continuously conducting research for nearly 60 years. Joseph Altman started it in 1961 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and moved it to Purdue University in 1968. Shirley A. Bayer joined the Laboratory in 1970 and became Joe’s wife in 1973. The team did research on rat and human prenatal brain development, publishing many papers in peer-reviewed journals that are considered classical contributions to a better understanding of normal development.    Joseph Altman died on April 19, 2016. Shirley continues the research in the Laboratory today.

In the early years, the laboratory consisted of faculty associates, several postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and technicians. The laboratory was supported by grants from the Atomic Energy Commission, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation. Shirley moved part of the Laboratory to Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) in 1982, but the Purdue branch remained active until Joe retired in 1995. Funding was dwindling during the early 90’s, and completely stopped around 1994.  Since then, Altman and Bayer used personal funds to continue the research.

In 2000, Shirley left IUPUI to do full-time research linking experimental studies on the development of the rat nervous system to descriptive studies of human nervous system development. That project was completed in 2007. Joe continued to do research until his death, and Shirley periodically updates the information available on this and two other websites.

The pdf files of Altman and Bayer publications are sometimes difficult to get online (depending on library subscriptions to journals), and the main purpose of this website is to make these classical papers freely available to the public. The papers are organized according to subject; click on the menu icon (3 bars in upper left corner) to access specific topics and see the links to papers and books.

Our laboratory is very proud of the website,, that archives the best specimens in our histological collections of rat nervous system development. Go and explore the THOUSANDS of high-resolution images that can be downloaded and used for research and publications.  This is a comprehensive database on prenatal rat central nervous system development that took thousands of hours to build, thanks to funding from NIH and NSF over many years of uninterrupted support.

Another website,, contains all the chapters written in a book by Joseph Altman, titled NEURAL AND MENTAL EVOLUTION: Origins of the Human Body, Brain, Behavior, Consciousness, and Culture. Shirley completed the last chapter using Joe’s notes shortly after his death.  This enormous project is a thorough elaboration of the scientific basis of human behavior.