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New grant supports scholar training in movement disorders research

The University of Florida has received a nearly $1 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to train future movement disorders scientists.

The Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Training in Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration program will train 12 doctoral students to become independent researchers whose work will lead to new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, tremor and ataxia.

Dawn Bowers, Ph.D., a professor in the department of clinical and health psychology in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, and David Vaillancourt, Ph.D., a professor in the department of applied physiology and kinesiology in the College of Health and Human Performance, serve as the training program directors.

“Across the nation there is a shortage of well-trained scientists who have expertise in clinical and basic science research methods, interventions and clinical outcome measures, and who can capitalize on collaborations across these areas to promote the understanding and eventual cure of people with debilitating movement disorders,” Bowers said.

The University of Florida is the ideal home for a training program in movement disorders, the directors say, because of the wealth of resources and expertise on campus, including a large number of leading movement disorders researchers, designated centers of excellence for Parkinson’s disease, dystonia and ataxia, and the UF Health Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, an internationally known clinical research facility.

Michael Okun, M.D., a professor of neurology at the College of Medicine and co-director of the UF Health Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, and Todd Golde, M.D., Ph.D., a UF professor of neuroscience and the director of UF’s Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease, are the training program’s co-directors.

Program trainees will choose one of three focus areas for their work: molecular biology and animal models; translational neuroscience and physiology; or human movement and cognitive neuroscience. Program mentors include 20 UF faculty members from the colleges of Engineering, Medicine, Health and Human Performance and Public Health and Health Professions who will help trainees develop an individualized career development plan. The program is designed to increase interaction between trainees with clinical and basic science backgrounds and give each trainee a solid foundation in research methodology and data presentation.

“The training will provide a broad understanding of a specific movement disorder from genetics to cells, circuits and clinical presentation of a person,” Vaillancourt said. “It will also provide exposure to motor, cognitive and emotional features of movement disorders. We hope to build a cadre of rigorously trained, scientifically competent and innovative young scientists.”

About the author

Jill Pease
Communications Director, College of Public Health and Health Professions

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