American youth are growing up in more contextually varied and distinct circumstances. Extensive research indicates that these circumstances profoundly impact the health and well-being of individuals both positively and negatively across the life course. However, little is known about how economic, cultural and ethnic contexts become biologically embedded and how this interaction with biology during development influences trajectories of developmental and health outcomes. Part of the reason for the sparse knowledge is that few investigators have expertise in the three domains necessary to successfully grapple with these questions, namely, developmental science of context, human neurobiology, and advanced research methods. We propose a training program that will help fill this gap in understanding. The objective is to train an outstanding cohort of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows on three pillars of knowledge: (1) developmental science of context; (2) human neurobiology, including brain imaging, genetics, epigenetics, and endocrine function; and (3) advanced research methods (e.g., quantitative statistics appropriate for combining and analyzing longitudinal data from different levels of functioning). This cross-training, which is predicated on an understanding of basic developmental processes, will produce researchers well-positioned to develop cutting- edge work that advances knowledge about how neurobiological factors interact with environmental contexts to influence development across several domains and contexts. It will help meet the demand for developmental scientists who integrate neuroscience perspectives and methods into their programs of research and possess the requisite skills for successful, collaborative, interdisciplinary work at the interface of neurobiology, context, and behavioral development. The demand for this expertise is strong and predicted to grow for years to come, as appreciation increases for the role of neurobiology in normative cognitive and social development and in developmental, learning, and behavior disorders. We request funds to support four advanced predoctoral and two postdoctoral trainees each year. Trainees will engage in a two-year series of courses and mentor-based research training that will allow them to integrate work on context and human neurobiology. The training program will be housed in the Developmental Area within the Department of Psychology. In addition to the 22 members of the Developmental faculty, the training grant includes six additional faculty members from other units including Human Genetics, Biopsychology and Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience. The training will draw on the rich resources of the University of Michigan, including extensive training in integrative research, courses in advanced methodology and statistics and opportunities for engaging in international research. The training program will prepare predoctoral and postdoctoral students to bridge research in the developmental science of context and human neurobiology in order to decipher how the social environment interacts with genetics and the brain to guide development.
American youth are growing up in more contextually varied and distinct circumstances. While it is established that these circumstances profoundly impact development, little is known about how they become biologically embedded and how this interaction with biology during development influences trajectories of developmental and health outcomes. The training program will prepare predoctoral and postdoctoral students to bridge research in the developmental science of context and human neurobiology in order to decipher how the social environment interacts with genetics and the brain to guide development.
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