This proposal describes the continuation of the Training Program in the Neuroscience of Human Cognition at Northwestern University, a program currently in its initial 5-year funding cycle. A multidisciplinary group of 34 faculty preceptors has been assembled to participate in training the next generation of cognitive neuroscientists. These scientists conduct research exploring a wide variety of human cognitive functions, including language, memory, perception, attention, emotion, motivation, problem solving, action planning, social cognition, executive functions, aging, and development. The program is led by Ken Paller (Director) and Marsel Mesulam (Associate Director), with the assistance of an internal Steering Committee and an External Advisory Committee (Ron Mangun, Marcia Johnson, John Jonides, and Larry Squire). Each year a competitive selection process will identify 4 predoctoral students who have advanced to candidacy for the PhD and 4 postdoctoral trainees, typically for 2 years of support each. They will be joined each year by 3 predoctoral affiliate trainees who receive funding provided by Northwestern Graduate School. Trainees conduct their research under the guidance of one or more of the 34 preceptors from 6 of the separate schools and colleges that make up Northwestern University (Arts &Sciences, Communication, Education, Management, Medical School, and Music). Faculty have primary affiliations with the following departments: Communication Sciences and Disorders, Education, Finance, Linguistics, Music, Neurology, Physiology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Psychology, and Radiology. Thus, the training program brings together a diverse set of perspectives on human neuroscience with a broad range of research and training opportunities. Trainees are selected on the basis of their proposed research activities, their future scientific potential, and the excellence of their prior coursework and scientific training. Mentorship from multiple faculty members is encouraged, particularly when the breadth of Cognitive Neuroscience research at Northwestern can be expanded through the kind of novel interdisciplinary approaches made possible when a student bridges the distinct areas of expertise of two mentors. Concerted efforts focus on including under- represented minorities and on fostering a diversity of perspectives. This funding mechanism encourages faculty and students to explore innovative strategies and novel methodological combinations, and it enhances the sense of community for all involved in cognitive neuroscience at Northwestern. Faculty regularly monitor the progress of trainees through formal advising and evaluations, opportunities for written and oral scientific communication, and other aspects of career development. Training instills a solid understanding of responsible conduct in science and of the ethical issues that will confront cognitive neuroscientists in the coming decades. A chief goal of the program is to provide top-rate comprehensive training to young scientists who will become future leaders in cognitive neuroscience.
Cognition is the focus of human achievement and is essential for human success in various arenas, but it is also the focal point of the most malicious attacks on health giving rise to immense suffering and a high emotional and monetary cost in our society. Treating and preventing neurological and psychiatric disease, and the typical symptoms of aging, depends on understanding the cognitive problems presented in the clinic, which in turn depends on understanding the brain bases of these problems. The neuroscience of human cognition is primed to contribute to these endeavors, but future success requires a continual infusion of new scientists who have received high-quality training. The training program in the neuroscience of human cognition provides young scientists at the predoctoral and postdoctoral levels with the necessary experiences and guidance to prepare them to become future leaders and substantive contributors to cognitive neuroscience in the future.
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