The Brandeis University National Center for Behavioral
Genomics (NCBG) is focused on understanding brain function
and behavior. The overarching strategy is to apply information
from the human genome project as well as other advances
in genomics-genetics to molecular, cellular, and systems
neuroscience. The NCBG is integrated within the Brandeis
Life Sciences community, the Brandeis
Neuroscience community and the other Brandeis
Life Science Research Centers.
The research goals are two-fold:
i) to further our understanding of normal and pathological
brain function including the generation of complex behaviors;
ii) to identify novel therapeutic strategies for dysfunctions
and diseases of the brain including mental illnesses.
The NCBG will also train a new generation of researchers
in cutting-edge technologies, which will help illuminate
the genesis of human behaviors and open up new therapeutic
avenues. Through this interdisciplinary research and training
center, Brandeis will integrate its internationally recognized
strengths in genetics and molecular biology, biological
rhythms, structural biology, behavioral neuroscience, neural
networks, psychology and cognitive science. Interests of
NCBG faculty also include the mechanisms of learning and
memory; sensory system development and function; cortical
neurons, circuits and plasticity; the function and role
of biological clocks; and the processes that underlie autism
and mental retardation.
There is also a broadly shared interest in understanding
sleep, its regulation and its function(s). Chronic sleep
disorders are now acknowledged to affect a significant percentage
of the population, including but not limited to the elderly.
Sleep deprivation has a profound impact on performance,
e.g., automobile safety. Despite its widely acknowledged
importance, there is almost no universally accepted theory
of why or how we sleep. It is difficult to imagine effective
therapeutics with more limited side-effects for sleep disorders
like insomnia without a more complete understanding of sleep
as a basic neurobiological process.
Although the research interests of the NCBG faculty are
principally focused on fundamental issues of brain function
and behavior rather than disease, discoveries will contribute
to the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies
for a wide variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders
and dysfunctions. Indeed, there are important synergies
between studies at the NCBG and more applied work being
done elsewhere at Brandeis, such as the Alzheimer's Disease
interests of Greg Petsko
and Dagmar Ringe in
the Rosenstiel Center.