Neuroscientists continue to struggle to understand the pathophysiological mechanisms that underlie mental illness, and even more so to translate this information into the personalized therapies needed for numerous diseases. Although research over the past five decades has uncovered genes, gene variants, molecular networks, cellular interactions and brain pathways underlying brain disorders, our translation of this information to a useful understanding of disease mechanisms that can facilitate the development of new therapeutic approaches remains limited.
The goal of the Vanderbilt Postdoctoral Training Program in Functional Neurogenomics is to train the next generation of neuroscientists to address these issues. Our trainees receive close personal mentoring to foster the development of the technical and intellectual skills needed to understand and exploit:
- The functional impact of genetic and epigenetic variation in vivo
- The developmental and regulatory context within which genes produce alterations in synaptic physiology
- The circuit-level pathologies that lead to changes in behavior
- The best practices in translating research findings into novel therapies.
Our program facilitates the merger of multiple disciplines, providing trainees with experience in the opportunities afforded by genetic model systems, the translation of human genetic findings into construct-valid animal models, the manipulation of molecules, cells and circuits with advanced technical approaches in vivo, and in capturing the physiological and behavioral consequences of such manipulations. These efforts are founded on a robust institutional investment in neuroscience leadership, faculty, educational programs, technological expertise and core facilities over the past two decades.
Two established neuroscientists with a long-standing interest in advancing the careers of junior scientists oversee the Program. The Program Director is Roger J. Colbran, Ph.D., Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, and fellow of the AAAS. Dr. Colbran’s research lab employs multidisciplinary approaches to investigate molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic plasticity, and their link to neuropsychiatric disorders. The Program Co-Director is J. David Sweatt, Ph.D., was recently recruited as the Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt, who has previously served on both the NIMH Advisory Council and the NIMH intramural program Board of Scientific Councilors. Dr. Sweatt’s current work revolves around the role of epigenetic mechanisms in learning and memory, and in various brain disorders. Drs. Colbran and Sweatt are highly experienced mentors, having trained numerous predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows who have gone on to productive careers as independent research scientists.