The Basic Science Training Program in the Neurobiology of Mental Illness (NMI) at UT Southwestern is designed to provide interdisciplinary, basic disease-oriented research training directly relevant to mental illness to predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows. This application for continued support for our NMI Training Program at UT Southwestern is a direct response to NIMH's call for more basic scientists trained in a broad range of diverse, innovative basic research that closely informs our understanding and treatment of mental illness. In addition to the paucity of basic science researchers nationwide exploring the neurobiology of neuropsychiatric diseases, there is, conversely, a dearth of clinically-trained individuals pursuing basic research in mental illness, thus diminishing the very cross talk that is urgently needed in this field. The complexity of mental disorders demands an interdisciplinary approach to illuminate underlying disease mechanisms and to develop better diagnostic measures, treatments, and ultimately cures. Our NMI training program has numerous strengths, including: a) the outstanding environment at UT Southwestern in which to conduct basic, interdisciplinary biomedical research;b) the intellectual intensity and close-knit nature of the UT Southwestern neuroscience community;c) the integration of fundamental neurobiological research performed in multiple academic divisions;d) the unusually strong foundation at UT Southwestern to explore fundamental underpinnings of depression, schizophrenia and autism;e) the preexisting integration of basic science with clinical programs in mental illness;f) the breadth and depth of our potential trainees;g) calculated interactions between junior and senior mentors, thus ensuring that junior mentors will also benefit from the Training Program and will remain in mental health research in future years;and h) novel, translationally-oriented training components, such as hands-on neurophysiology and human neuroanatomy laboratories, a new Clinical Correlations Seminar, and the presence of a clinician on each trainee's doctoral thesis committee.
The NMI Training Program is designed to encourage the best basic scientists-in-training to turn their attention to studying mental illness, with a purposeful endpoint being the development of new treatments for depression, schizophrenia, autism and developmental disorders, and other severe, common mental illnesses. The mental health research that is ongoing in the Department of Psychiatry has already inspired many UT Southwestern researchers to pursue mental health research. This Training Plan's goal of attracting and inspiring additional young scientists to pursue mental health research is both warranted and feasible given the truly exceptional and translational nature of the researchers, environment, and trainees offered by UT Southwestern.
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