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The institution's principal publication for alumni, friends and physicians.
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  NEWS
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Unique training program improves autism research

In what is anticipated to be one of the more innovative projects of its kind in the nation, researchers at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute are beginning a new program designed to improve autism research by bringing together a variety of scientific disciplines to cross-train behavioral and biological research scientists in the complexities of autism research.

With a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute has launched a five-year program that exposes new, postdoctoral scientists to a wide range of expertise and research in neurodevelopmental disorders. While the institute has always taken a broad approach to the analysis and treatment of autism — combining everything from biology and human behavior to neurochemistry and immunology — researchers have long wanted to expand that work.

"What's really exciting about this project is that we will be training and creating a new type of scientist for autism research," said Sally J. Rogers, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the UC Davis School of Medicine and the program's director. "Knowing a textbook description of the disorder, having laboratory expertise, or having clinical experiences working with children with autism — none of these is enough to significantly move the science forward. This training program gives us opportunities to pool our expertise and create a new wave of talented experts for autism research in an area of study might be best termed ‘clinical neurodevelopmental neuroscience.'"

The new program pairs faculty members from different disciplines with postdoctoral students during the course of a two-year training period. "To find a cause or a cure for autism demands a variety of vantage points, from the molecular to the behavioral," noted David G. Amaral, professor of psychiatry in the school of medicine and co-director of the new program. "We realized that the next generation of autism researchers could move much farther much faster if they could communicate with each other through the core concepts and language of several major disciplines."

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