The goal of this training program is to train the next generation of developmental scientists with the skills and knowledge necessary to make real headway in understanding the development of the human mind and brain and how atypical development leads to pediatric disorders of cognition and emotion. To this end, our students will be trained in multiple approaches to developmental cognitive neuroscience, so that they can forge links between behavioral studies of cognitive development in humans, computational theories of learning and development, and biologicalmechanismsof brain development. Specifically, beyond receiving a firm foundation in traditional approaches to developmental cognitive science, our students will be trained in six new frontier areas of developmental research that are being actively pursued in our Department. First, advances in computer science and machine learning have led to new computational models (e.g.,of inductive inference) that are for the first time providing real traction on many longstanding problems in cognitive development;this work involves collaborations with faculty in the Computer Science and AI Laboratory. Second, there has been a new level of integration among psycholinguistic, linguistic, and neuroscience approaches towards understanding language. Third, to enhance the connection between traditional developmental work and neuroscience, our faculty are now advancing the technical frontiers of developmental cognitive neuroscience, for example by developing methods that enable us to conduct fMRI scans on ever younger children. Fourth, many of us are focusing on social cognition, which not only constitutes a core domain of cognition, but which further includes many component mechanisms that are likely to play a necessary role in the development of other domains of cognition. Fifth, virtually everyone in our group is integrating their work on normal development with parallel studies of developmental disorders, including autism, dyslexia, and specific language impairment. In addition, many members of our Department are working on the biological mechanisms underlying developmental disorders of the brain. Finally, many faculty in our Department are investigating the basic neural mechanisms of brain development, an area that will be increasingly important in understanding cognitive development as the links between cognitive science and neuroscience strengthen over the next decade. Through intensive exposure to all of these areas, our students will be ideally positioned to shape the future of research in cognitive development.
The proposed training program would provide interdisciplinary and inter-institutional graduate training in developmental cognitive neuroscience. Students with this training will be prepared to perform cutting-edge research on pediatric developmental disorders that affect millions of children, including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, pediatric bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. Understanding the psychological and neural bases of these disorders ought to be fundamental to enhancing diagnosis and treatment for these psychiatric diseases.
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