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
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."