The Developmental Neuroscience Department is dedicated to the investigation of the causes of developmental disabilities in children. By understanding the molecular mechanisms regulating the development and function of the brain, we will address the causes and eventual treatments for conditions such as autism, cognitive and neuromuscular delays, and communication disorders.
- The Developmental Neuroscience Department was created in 2010, starting with seven faculty members.
- The laboratories and offices are located on the C.L. Werner Developmental Neuroscience Laboratories on the 3rd floor of the Durham Research Center 2.
- We currently have eight faculty members.
- Each faculty member has an active, independently funded research laboratory, but they also collaborate on specific projects and utilize shared space and equipment.
- All of the laboratories share a focus in investigating the genetic and environmental causes of developmental disabilities.
- Ph.D. graduate students and post-doctoral fellows receive 4-5 years of individual training and mentoring in Developmental Neuroscience laboratories.
- Members of the Department participate in teaching in courses for students in research and clinical programs across UNMC Colleges.
- Faculty members have developed a new course in Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience for Ph.D. students in biomedical research programs.
- Dr. Smith directs the MD/PhD program for UNMC which trains physician/scientists for clinical practice and biomedical research.
Our research programs focus on understanding the genetic and environmental causes of developmental disabilities and how they affect the brain and sensory systems, including:
- Neuronal development in autism, particularly Fragile X syndrome, Rett syndrome, and autism related to infection during pregnancy (Dunaevsky, Arikkath).
- Brain development in conditions such as Coffin-Siris syndrome or Down syndrome (Kim; Jiang).
- Regeneration of sensory cells in the ear to restore hearing loss (Huh).
- Techniques to create model systems to study developmental disorders (Gurumurthy).
- Genetic influences on hearing loss and reading and language disorders (Smith).
- Causes and potential treatments for human brain disorders from autism and developmental delays to schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease (Mirnics).
- All of our faculty members have been awarded outside funds for their research, including state, national foundation, and federal funds.
- MMI is the home institution for a Center for Biomedical Research Excellence, an NIH-funded program now in its 13th year of funding. The Center supports research in hearing loss, vision loss, and brain development and includes researchers at UNMC, Creighton University, and Boys Town National Research Hospital. The program also supports research core facilities and a mentoring program for new researchers to advance their careers.