Funds are requested to help support the Fourth Gordon Research Conference on Genes and Behavior (March 14-18, 2010) and the associated Gordon Research Seminar (March 13-14), both to be held at Ventura, CA. Funds received from NIH would be used to support registration fee and/or travel support for participants, including but not limited to post docs and/or graduate students. The Conference and Seminar will focus on topics at the interface of animal behavior, neurobiology, genetics, molecular biology, ecology and evolutionary biology and will emphasize the theme of integration: integration across organismal models (invertebrates to humans), experimental contexts (field vs laboratory), timescales (physiology vs evolution), and levels of analysis (gene, brain, organismal behavior, populations and ecologies). All of the invited speakers and discussion leaders are highly regarded experts in their fields, and they were selected by the Conference Chair in consultation with an advisory group of a dozen experienced scientists representing the range of interests above. Special attention has been given to achieving gender balance and to include experts from the diverse disciplines that must be represented to achieve a broadly based understanding of the influences of genes on behavior. The associated Gordon Research Seminar is being organized by and for graduate students and postdocs, with mentorship from a core of senior participants in the main Conference, with the goal of nurturing and preparing junior scientists so they can participate more actively and effectively in the main GRC. The specific objectives of the combined conference and seminar may be summarized: 1) To provide a forum for the latest research linking genes to behavior;2) To bring together researchers working primarily on model behavioral systems, chosen to answer general questions in behavior, with those working on behavior in model genetic systems, chosen for their genetic tractability;3) To promote transfer of molecular genetic and genomic techniques from model genetic systems to model behavioral systems;4) To expand the range of behavioral questions being asked in model genetic organisms;and 5) To identify both gaps in knowledge that hinder the integration of genomics and behavioral biology and links that could enhance this integration. Preference (for attending the conference) will be given to members of under-represented groups and junior colleagues (graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and new assistant professors).
One of the major challenges of the post-genomic era is to understand the genetic basis of complex traits, especially behavior. Understanding the relationships between genes and behavior will be key for advancing in the prevention and treatment of mental illnesses and for illuminating behavioral processes important to human health, including life-style decisions affecting the risk of heart disease or substance abuse. This conference will promote progress towards this understanding by bringing together both experts and trainees working with a variety of organismal models, human populations and technical approaches.