Research Goals

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.

 

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