This application is a request for continued support of a predoctoral training program in Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania. The program prepares exceptional students for productive research careers in the neuroscience of healthy and disordered behavior. With the recent shift in mental health research toward dimensional, systems-based frameworks such as the Research Domain Criteria there is unprecedented need for training of the kind offered through this program, specifically training in the molecular, large-scale neural systems and in behavioral approaches to learning, motivation, affect, perception, cognition, language, stress, sleep, circadian rhythms and synaptic plasticity. Penn is an ideal place to provide this training, with a large and diverse training faculty (representing 14 different departments in the five Schools at Penn) and a tradition of interdisciplinary graduate training that draws from independent interdepartmental "Graduate Groups," which foster multi-disciplinary training courses and laboratory rotations from a rich and varied menu. The separate, University-mandated Office of Biomedical Graduate Studies (BGS) ensures curricular development, quality control, and uniform admissions standards. As in previous years, management of the training program will be by an interdepartmental executive committee that sets and reviews policy and selects trainees and evaluates their progress. The training program serves as the major source of support for students interested in the neuroscience of normal and disordered behavior and cognition from three Graduate Groups (Neuroscience, Psychology, and Cellular and Molecular Biology). Predoctoral trainees participate in interdisciplinary and collaborative research in the areas of motivated behaviors, affect and stress, animal models of endophenotypes of psychiatric disorders, neural plasticity, learning and memory and cognitive neuroscience. This program encourages broad training by offering cooperatively taught courses, a biweekly Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Seminar Series and associated journal club, monthly translational neuroscience lunches and an annual Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Retreat.
Psychiatric disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are debilitating conditions, and an estimated one in four adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. This proposal seeks funds to train predoctoral students in the fields of behavioral and cognitive neuroscience--areas of research that seek to understand the fundamental mechanisms underlying behavior and the behavioral alterations observed in patients with psychiatric disorders. Knowledge of these underlying mechanisms will provide the basis for novel approaches to diagnose and treat these diseases.
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