Costa Rica has progressed rapidly in the last fifty years and has the highest standard of living in Central America. Despite these gains significant health problems continue to severely impact the country. Of these illnesses, neuropsychiatric/neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and progressive dementias pose a particular burden. With increasing longevity these illness require progressively greater resources to adequately treat them. Additionally, while health care and its infrastructure has greatly improved, there has not been the same progress in the development of independent sustainable Costa Rica- based research and scientists. This application's goal is to provide funding to continue this very successful program. Although we have been successful in training medical scientists for the University of Costa Rica since the inception of our Fogarty-funded training program in 2002, we have identified needed improvements in several areas and will implement them in the current project: One goal is to provide training for Ph.D students, who will now be fully integrated in the Biomedical Graduate Program and will focus on the genetics of these chronic neurodevelopmental disorders. While their base training will be in genetics, we recognize that genetics is not monolithic but requires knowledge ofthe biological context. Thus we will also encourage our Ph.D trainees to take advantage of the full range of potential academic programs at our training center and affiliated programs at our university, to complement their genetic training. We will also limit the post doctoral program to training in identifying a variety of phenotypes using the three most needed technological approaches for the research program at the University of Costa Rica and additional training in clinical assessments related to disorders of aging and neurodegeneration. The phenotyping variables of interest are neuroimaging, neuropathology and cognitive testing and clinical experiences will be in measuring and assessing dementias and cognitive declines associated with aging. As new developments in phenotyping related to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder develop, we will also accommodate targeted mini- fellowships for psychiatric and psychologic researchers as well.
We have identified neurodevelopmental disorders as serious, understudied health problems in Costa Rica. One ofthe biggest impediments to sustainable advances to prevent and treat these illnesses are the lack of Costa Rican Scientist studying these illnesses, especially in the area of genetics. To overcome this problem this grant extends our current Costa Rican Training Program to include the study ofthe genetics of neurodevelopmental disorders.