William Fifer, PhD, Chief
The Division 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 11 primary investigators in the department, one Emeritus faculty, two members with Visiting titles, and numerous close collaborations with members of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology headed by Drs. Jay Gingrich and William Fifer.
Projects within the division are focused on 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 early developmental neurobiological substrates of emotion regulation and risk for neurodevelopmental disorders. These models include targeted gene deletion of neurotransmitter receptors in mice as well as early life exposure to drugs that affect these transmitter systems.
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 that regulate the course of development and can shape adult outcome and vulnerability to a number of clinical conditions.