This proposal aims to renew funding for a pre-doctoral training program in Neurobehavioral Genetics (NBG). The completion of human genome sequencing provides an extraordinary opportunity to identify the genetic basis of disorders of brain function affecting mental health. Progress in this endeavor will be speeded by bridging several longstanding dichotomies;between nervous system mechanisms and behavior, between neurology and psychiatry/psychology, between diseases and non-disease traits, between humans and model organisms, and between basic and clinical sciences. The training program has so far successfully achieved such bridging by providing a unified and multidisciplinary training over a 3-year-period to PhD candidates from a wide range of backgrounds, including neuroscience, psychology, human genetics, neuroimaging, and pharmacology, while at the same time providing exposure to clinical issues of strong relevance to mental health. This program is the only training program at UCLA focusing on mammalian or complex genetics, and thus also serves a critical training niche for a large number of students from a variety of primary disciplines. The program emphasizes the importance of systematic delineation and assessment of nervous system phenotypes, including the integration of traditional clinical and cognitive evaluations with recently available phenotyping tools such as neuroimaging and gene expression profiling. This pre-doctoral training program is closely integrated with a recently renewed post-doctoral NBG training program (T32 grant from NINDS). The interactions of pre-doctoral students with postdoctoral fellows and faculty from disciplines that they would ordinarily not interact with in their primary department or program through the shared coursework and seminar series provides a unique training environment for these pre-doctoral candidates. Our success to date in achieving our ambitious training goals reflects an outstanding pool of applicants, the strength of the program faculty in virtually all areas relevant to neurobehavioral genetics, and the commitment of the faculty, in their research, to the integrative and cross-disciplinary approach that is at the heart of the program. For the renewal we are enhancing our efforts to identify and recruit applicants who will add to the diversity of the training program.
Following this training, PhD candidates will be uniquely poised to perform the type of team-oriented, multi- disciplinary or translational genetic research that is necessary to forward our understanding and treatment of diseases of brain and behavior, for example autism, ADHD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, each of which is a pressing public health concern.
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