The purpose of the proposed training program, "Postdoctoral Training in Reproductive Mood Disorders" is to develop researchers with expertise in both the biological basis and clinically relevant (predictive) phenotypes of reproductive mood disorders (perinatal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and perimenopausal depression). This is a two year training program for MD, PhD and MD/PhD trainees. Training will involve a broad-based and integrative perspective, involving not only psychiatry but cardiology and genetics, endocrinology, neuroscience, and obstetrics/gynecology. With this program's emphasis on training in pathophysiological mechanisms that underlie reproductive mood disorders, trainees will develop mastery in the following: reproductive hormonal physiology and signaling;methods for manipulating the reproductive system;and clinical phenomenology of reproductive mood disorders. Additionally, trainees will develop expertise in at least one of four methodological training tracks: Neurosciences, Genetics, Stress Physiology, or Clinical Trials Methodology. Fellows will have a primary research mentor (representing their training track) and a secondary mentor (from a different track), thereby providing additional exposure to both the interdisciplinarity and collaborative nature of science. In addition to experiential opportunities with program faculty, didactics will be tailored to the individual fellow to ensure that each achieves competence in their chosen research track. A key element of the training as well includes an independent research project. Thus, while the training plan is multidisciplinary, an emphasis is placed on individualizing the training experience for the Fellows. However, through a number of program specific venues designed to bring the Fellows together for exchange of ideas and support, the program will ensure cohesiveness among the trainees. Fellows who complete this program will be poised to become independent researchers, having the unique requisite foundation to examine biobehavioral mechanisms in reproductive mood disorders and the ability to identify therapeutic biologic targets in their future independent research. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill represents an ideal setting for the proposed program because it possesses a well-known collaborative infrastructure, a vibrant women's mood disorder clinical program (which includes the first inpatient perinatal depression program in the country), and a critical mass of researchers in reproductive mood disorders with a track record of success.
Among women, reproductive mood disorders (postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and perimenopausal depression) are prevalent and associated with substantial morbidity and mortality. Reproductive mood disorders are similar to other depressive disorders in symptom expression, but they differ in their greater predictability of affective state change resulting from changing reproductive hormone levels. Training the next generation of researchers in reproductive mood disorders will not only increase our understanding of the causes of these debilitating disorders and aid in the identification of therapeutic targets, but because reproductive mood disorders may serve as a model for studying affective state change, our comprehension of the causes of mood disorders overall will also be advanced.
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