The proper function of the adult central nervous system requires highly orchestrated and precisely regulated developmental programs to coordinate neurogenesis, neuronal migration, axon guidance and synaptogenesis. Alterations in these programs have been shown to underlie a wide array of neurodevelopmental disorders including autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, mental retardation, epilepsia and neurodegeneration. Thus, a complete understanding of the basic mechanisms of nervous system development is essential for a rational design of strategies to treat these disorders. The goal of the 2012 Neural Development Gordon Research Conference is to bring together established and rising investigators to discuss recent research breakthroughs, in order to foster interactions and collaborations, and to strengthen the foundation for translational research. The overall theme of the meeting will center around molecular and genetic approaches, and the role of cross-species investigations in our understanding of neurodevelopmental principles. This conference has been held biannually since 1981, and has become the premier conference in this field that consistently attracts prominent national and international researchers, as well as students and postdoctoral fellows in a small, interactive setting for in-depth scientific discussions. The format of the meeting which is centered around oral presentations followed by extensive discussions, highly interactive poster sessions, and 'free'time for informal meetings allows a level and depth of interaction that is rarely found at other, larger conferences. The 2012 conference will cover 8 themes including neurogenesis and brain patterning;cell fate specification;neural stem cells;neuronal migration and polarization;neuronal morphogenesis;wiring the nervous system;synaptogenesis and circuit formation;human brain evolution. In developing the program, attention was paid to inviting speakers who have made recent exciting breakthroughs and who use a variety of model systems (worm, fruit fly, xenopus, zebrafish, mouse, human) and multiple approaches including molecular, genetic and cellular, in their research. The program also includes national and international speakers, as well as both senior and junior researchers. 35% of the confirmed speakers are women. Based on prior history and the exciting list of confirmed speakers, we expect that the 2012 Neural Development GRC will be a successful forum furthering our understanding of neural development, and in promoting strategies for translational research to address human neurodevelopmental pathologies.
Research conferences provide a critical forum for the dissemination of research findings, and for the establishment of collaborations leading to novel insights. The 2012 Gordon Research Conference in Neural Development is expected to impact public health by furthering our understanding of the basic mechanisms by which the central and peripheral nervous systems develop, and how these mechanisms are disrupted in neurodevelopmental disorders. Discussions and interactions among researchers working on different model systems using various complementary experimental approaches is expected to result in the initiation of novel research directions, leading to the development of new therapeutic strategies and the identification of targets for rational treatment approaches.