Michael Myers, PhD, Chief
The Department of Developmental Neuroscience was established at NYSPI in 1984. It was the first department in a medical school to focus its basic research program on the development of brain and behavior as a basis for understanding the early origins of psychiatric illness. There are eleven investigators in the department interested in understanding how natural events and stressful experiences interact with genetic mechanisms to shape the course of normal and abnormal development.
This work is driven by the belief that the study of developmental processes provides important clues about the origins of a wide spectrum of clinical conditions. Ongoing studies use a variety of novel animal models to investigate the neurobiological substrates of attachment, separation anxiety, fear responses, and pain regulation. These models include targeted gene deletion of neurotransmitter receptors in mice, programming of early nutritional and other environmental experiences, and selective breeding for behavioral traits in infancy.
Studies involving human subjects examine the role of pre- and post-natal experiences on fetal, infant, child and maternal behavior and physiology. Work in the division has revealed networks of neurobiological and behavioral processes within the fetal and early postnatal maternal environments which regulate the course of development and can shape adult outcome and vulnerability to a number of clinical conditions. Research activities in the department are augmented by a postdoctoral training grant that has received continuous funding from the National Institute of Mental Health for over 35 years, and by the SacklerInstitute for Developmental Psychobiology headed by Dr. Jay Gingrich.