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Group Mission Statement

Throughout modern biology, genetics has been a powerful tool to discover the relationship between genetic mutations (genotypes) and their biological consequences (phenotypes) in a living organism. With recent rapid advances of genetic tools to study various model organisms, and with the breakthroughs in the genome sequencing of human and other model organisms, genetics has become a prime discovery tool to study the biology and diseases of the nervous system.
At the UCLA Brain Research Institute, we have a large group of faculty researchers who are focusing on using molecular genetic tools to study the nervous system. Research activities here at UCLA including mapping and positional cloning of important neuropsychiatric disease genes (e.g. Tourette syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, and Autism), functional imaging studies of the neuropsychiatric diseases, and studies using model organisms such as Drosophila, Zebrafish, and Mouse to elucidate molecular mechanisms underlying normal brain function, and to understand pathogenesis and treatment of human diseases. Currently, neurogenetic researchers at UCLA do not have a forum to meet regularly to exchange scientific results and discuss the latest advances.
The mission of the UCLA Neurogenetics Affinity Group is to provide a forum in which neurogenetic researchers at UCLA, including faculty, postdoctoral researchers, clinical fellows, residents, and graduate students, will have an opportunity to meet regularly to share unpublished results, and to critically discuss important publications in the field. We would also like to invite a few leading scientists from other institutions to give seminars each year. Through these activities, neurogenetic researchers at UCLA will have a comprehensive understanding of the potentials and limitations of the various genetic approaches, and on the scope and depth of neurogenetic research here at UCLA and elsewhere. Such understanding will hopefully stimulate novel approaches and foster new collaborations among neurogeneticists here at UCLA.

The neurogenetic affinity group will facilitate the exchange and development of scientific ideas, and foster collaborations among the participating faculty and other interested BRI faculty. Through the group interactions, we hope members will be able to develop multi-disciplinary approaches (multiple model organisms; multiple analytic tools such as imaging and functional genomics), or other novel genetic approaches, to advance our studies on the biology and diseases of the nervous system. Furthermore, this forum will greatly enhance the education for postdoctoral researchers, clinical fellows and residents in neurology and psychiatry, and graduate students, on the subject of modern genetic approaches in neuroscience. To the latter mission, the neurogenetics affinity group and its regular meetings are an integral part of an NIH Neurobehavioral Genetics Training Grant proposal recently submitted by Dr. N. Freimer (Director, Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics, Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior), and Dr. Dan Geschwind (Co-Director, Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics).

Program Activities

1. Research Seminars: Participating faculty or an advanced postdoctoral fellow designated by the faculty will give a research seminar once a month in the group. The research seminars should mostly be on unpublished studies but include sufficient introduction on the specific research approach/model organism to benefit researchers who are unfamiliar with the system. The seminar will last one hour and with an additional half hour for in depth discussions. To facilitate discussions, participants can ask questions anytime during the seminar.
2. Journal Club: Participating faculty or a postdoctoral fellow/graduate student designated by the faculty will discuss once a month a recent research paper using genetic approach to study nervous system. Participating members will read the paper before the journal club, and the presenters will present the background information and major findings of the papers, and will foster critical discussions among the participants.
3. Outside Speakers: Four outside speakers will be invited each year to give seminars on the latest research in neurogenetics. The participating faculties will decide on the speakers to be invited, and to coordinate their visits. In addition to the seminar, which will be advertised campus wide, the speakers will also have ample opportunities to interact with faculties, postdocs and students in the affinity group.

The Neurogenetics Affinity Group meetings will be held in the Gonda First Floor Conference Room, 1357,  biweekly on Thursday from 12:00 noon to 2:00 pm. Members in the affinity group will receive regular email communications from Margaret Chu, who coordinates the activities of the affinity group. In addition, seminars will be advertised throughout the UCLA medical complexes to encourage neuroscience researchers outside the affinity group to participate and interact with members within the group. Our BRI webpage will facilitate member participation and enhance interactions with other neuroscientists within and beyond UCLA.

· Affinity Group Summary
Affinity Group Participants
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