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The rapid development and accumulation of knowledge in the neuro sciences over the last decade has transformed the educational landscape within basic and clinical neuroscience alike. An increasing awareness of the importance of a biopsychological perspective for the understanding of the major mental disorders, like schizophrenia, depression, stress and anxiety, as well as other disorders like dementia and language disorders has led to the establishment of interdisciplinary and integrated research networks on an international scale.
Despite intensive research into mental disorders over recent years, the understanding of the causes of e.g. schizophrenia and affective disorders is still fragmentary. Even though treatment based on classical symptomatology has improved, outcome with respect to social and occupational function has not. For rehabilitation of patients with psychotic illnesses, allocated efforts, time and resources have not led to expected success. Moreover, the molecular targets currently used for drug development in psychopharmacology have not been convincingly shown to play a role in the pathophysiology of these disorders.
An alternative agenda may be the recent emphasis on cognitive deficits and impairments in the major mental disorders. Research has shown that impairment in working memory, attention, language and aspects of executive functionare more critical as predictors of social outcome after treatment than reduction in symptom intensity and frequency. Cognitive impairment in mental disorders have recently also been fairly well described making them candidates for more narrow clinical targets than the insistence of monotherapies for disorders that are most likely heterogeneous in nature. Cognitive functions may also play an important role as endophenotypes, intermediating between the genetic and clinical levels of explanation.
A key word in current research on brain and behaviour is integration of competence and resources across traditional borders and disciplines. The response to this challenge among researchers in the field was the development of a new multidisciplinary fields, cognitive and affective neuroscience, with a focus on the cognitive and emotional aspects of the major mental and neurodegenerative disorders. As a consequence, research on cognitive and affective neuroscience is perhaps the most expanding area of research in the neurosciences. Integration and collaboration across traditional borders is a necessary approach in order to keep up with the rapid progress in the different highly specialized branches of mental health research.
There is an unfilled research need that also can be seen as a student training paradox. Research in neuroscience depends on a multidisciplinary approach usually including biological, behavioural and cognitive sciences. The training and insight in different disciplines is often lacking for students starting a research career in neuroscience. This creates a knowledge vacuum which hinders the further development of an inter- and multidisciplinary research agenda. IGSIN aim at alleviating such blocking stones through a new research and training agenda that draws on the best from several worlds.