Our training program for Interactionist Cognitive Neuroscience (ICoN) seeks to provide student-focused, interdisciplinary training in computational cognitive neuroscience that integrates data from multiple scales and levels of analysis. Transformative gains in understanding the human brain and mental health require integration across multiple levels of analysis. Recent historic advances in genetics and cellular biology are paving the way for understanding fundamentals of neural function. At the other end of the spectrum, methods for imaging and stimulating human brains non-invasively have led to revolutionary advances in discovering the macro-scale organization supporting perception, motivation, and cognition. Now, a major effort at the `systems' level between these two scales is beginning to uncover the activity, connectivity, and computations of neural circuits. The advent of this systems-level progress holds the promise of linking core circuit computations to emergent human behavior and leading to detailed, transdiagnostic models of mental illness. However, as we recently argued (Badre, Frank and Moore, 2015 Neuron), fulfilling this promise requires making direct links between circuit-level computation and the emergent function of the human system. We believe that integrating systems- and human neuroscience in this way demands a systematic approach built on two key strategies. First, formal computational models must be used to provide principled links between levels of analysis; and, second, complementary methods must be applied, and in the ideal case parallel human and non-human studies conducted in coordination. Achieving these aims requires a new generation of scientists that can take full advantage of multiple techniques and data sources, and who are deeply versed in computational theory. Traditional neuroscience training relies on an apprenticeship model that limits students to a single lab and level of inquiry. Thus, a specialized training program is required to specifically equip neuroscientists for this `Interactionist' approach. ICoN will provide this training emphasizing the two tenets: I. Computation is key to translating between levels. Students must be rigorously quantitatively trained in formal theory. A close corollary is that they must be fluent in the advanced analysis methods necessary for cross-level integration (e.g., machine learning). II. Next-generation scholars must have expertise at multiple levels. Students must be trained to use and integrate multiple methods and data sources. Further, they must have the skills (and courage) to pursue ideas to their next most logical step, to be question driven and not technique limited. Students will be trained to conduct integrative research projects across domains such as human cognitive neuroscience, systems neuroscience, and computational neuroscience.

Public Health Relevance

This is an interdisciplinary predoctoral program in computational cognitive neuroscience. Funds from this program will support the training of advanced predoctoral candidates who are capable of applying a combination of empirical and theoretical approaches that decisively addresses their scientific questions about the mind and brain. Training a generation of such scientists holds great promise for making transformative gains in our understanding of mental health and brain diseases and disorders.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Institutional National Research Service Award (T32)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZMH1)
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Van'T Veer, Ashlee V
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Brown University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
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