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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

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Section on Development and Affective Neuroscience (SDAN)


The Branch trains students at a number of levels. Most of our trainees are post-doctoral (Ph.D., MD) fellows or are working in a two-year post-baccalaureate (post-bac) position, but we do also train some graduate and medical students.

Post-bac IRTA (Intramural Research Training Award) positions are research assistant positions that require a bachelor’s degree. Duties and responsibilities include assistance with and participation in all aspects of the research enterprise: patient and normal volunteer screening and recruitment; protocol implementation; data collection, entry, and analysis; and manuscript preparation. The work involves using computer statistical and graphics programs, and regular patient contact both during outpatient clinic visits and with inpatients. IRTAs also train research subjects to participate in neuroimaging and assist in analyzing neuroimaging data.

Post-doctoral fellows have completed a MD or PhD degree, and come to the Branch to obtain additional research training. Both Drs. Leibenluft and Pine have a firm commitment to mentoring, as evident through their frequent contact with fellows and their focus on helping them design studies, analyze data, author papers, apply for grants, and present their work. The first year exposes fellows to the broad array of Branch research experiences, including the implementation of clinical trials, neuroimaging, psychophysiology, classification, and family-genetics. Branch-wide courses are provided on imaging, neuroscience, and clinical research, along with a journal club. In later years, the focus shifts to skill application and research projects where the pursuit of specific questions becomes the focus of training. Fellows are required to formulate the most appropriate plan for data acquisition, analysis, and publication through weekly individual meetings. During these meetings, fellows receive supervision on their research project, general problems in clinical research, and the direction for their research training. Fellows are encouraged to present their research findings at local, regional, and national meetings.

We also consider training graduate and medical students. Medical students on research rotations come to our lab for additional training. Both graduate and medical students are involved in research projects that are tailored to their skills and interests. Possible activities include learning basic skills in analyzing behavioral or neuroimaging data, observing patient visits, and training to administer semi-structured clinical interviews with patients and their families.