The complex functioning of the nervous system demands highly orchestrated and precisely regulated developmental programs. Alterations in these developmental programs underlie many neurodevelopmental disorders including autism, behavioral syndromes, and neurodegeneration. A complete understanding of the basic mechanisms of nervous system development is essential for a rational design of therapeutic and behavioral strategies to combat these disorders. Transformative breakthroughs have recently been made in the areas of neural stem cells, nuclear organization, epigenetics, and glial control of brain development, circuit formation, regeneration and human brain evolution. In parallel, exciting new imaging technologies and advances in genetic manipulation of cells and their activity, as applied to the study of brain development are leading to unprecedented advances, with great impact on understanding and modeling neurodevelopmental disorders. The goal of the 2014 Neural Development Gordon Research Conference is to bring together established and rising investigators to discuss recent cutting-edge findings in diverse aspects of neural development in multiple model systems, to foster interactions and collaborations, and to strengthen the foundation for translational research in this area. This conference has been held biannually since 1981, and has become the premier conference in the 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 The format of the meeting, which is centered on oral presentations of unpublished research followed by extensive discussions, highly interactive poster sessions, and 'free'time for informal meetings allows a level and depth of interaction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 2014 conference will cover 9 themes including neural stem cells, cellular heterogeneity, transcriptional and epigenetic control of cell fate, wiring the brain, synaptic formation and elimination, development and refinement of circuits, CNS- periphery interactions, brain evolution and regeneration, and neurodevelopmental disorders. Speakers will include well-established leaders in the field as well as young investigators of exceptional promise. Importantly, about 10 poster presenters will be invited to give short oral presentations. The main conference will also be preceded by a two-day meeting planned by and for pre-doctoral and postdoctoral trainees in this growing interdisciplinary field. This pre-meeting, the Gordon Research Seminar, will provide a forum for these future leaders in the field to present their work in talks and posters, in a collegial and interactive environment that will add outstanding value to their overall GRC experience. Overall, the meeting will provide a platform for the development of long term interdisciplinary interactions, and expose students and young professionals to the latest ideas and opportunities at the confluence of neural development, brain plasticity and modeling of neurodevelopmental disorders.
Research conferences provide a critical forum for the dissemination of research findings, and for the establishment of collaborations leading to novel insights. The 2014 Gordon Research Conference and Gordon Research Seminar 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 are 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.