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Formal Training Program

The goal of the Training Program in Neuroimaging is to train researchers and physicians/scientists in the rigorous scientific application of neuroimaging, to provide leadership to academic programs, and to advance the understanding of brain structure/function/behavior relationships. Trainees receive in-depth laboratory experience in neuroimaging strategy, physics, instrumentation, and application. All students also participate in course work and attend seminars concerning functional neuroanatomy, digital imaging, and the theory and practice of neuroimaging. They are trained in the development of testable hypotheses and the creation of grant applications. Pre-doctoral candidates write a thesis and produce an NRSA (or equivalent) application, and post-doctoral fellows develop a CIDA or FIRST award proposal).

This training program is focused on the basic science of neuroimaging and use of neuroimaging in the pursuit of basic neurobiological results, yet it still provides a broad based exposure to many of the modern experimental and applied approaches to the study of behavior and brain structure and function. While the focus of this training program is in neuroimaging, the breadth of its domain covers brain anatomy and brain physiology in a range of spatial (m – cm) and temporal resolutions, from events that occur on a millisecond level to the process of aging and evolution.

Aim

The aim of this program includes efforts to:

  • provide trainees with those skills necessary to conduct neuroimaging research studies of brain structure and function in experimental animals and humans. Trainees are provided with hands-on laboratory experience in combination with seminars and course work devoted to the science of neuroimaging, hypothesis formulation and testing, and ethical issues of scientific conduct.
  • provide breadth of understanding, incorporating the full spectrum of currently used neuroimaging techniques, including wet bench imaging techniques such as optical intrinsic signal imaging to tomographic methods like structural and functional MR, MR angiography, and positron emission tomography.
  • provide trainees with the knowledge of research design, statistics, and interpretation of the relative types of imaging information derived using the different imaging protocols.
  • prepare trainees to establish their own laboratories and career paths in neuroimaging. Thus, a portion of the training experience includes preparation to enable them to become independent and productive scientists. Trainees will leave this program having conducted their own research projects, written manuscripts, participated in the development of research proposals, and prepared research support documentation for animal research approval, human subject committee (IRB) and controlled substances (FDA, IND, etc.). They will give their own seminars and present their results at scientific meetings.

Curriculum

The Training Program in Neuroimaging prepares students in all aspects of neuroimaging following their core curriculum training from the Biomedical Physics Program, the Neuroscience Program, the MSTP Program, or following residency training in a psychiatry, neurology, neurosurgery, radiology, or a related discipline (click to view graphic overview). The training from this program includes rotations through the core courses from respective programs, seminars, and an intensive laboratory rotation through clinical and basic science facilities devoted to one of many aspects of neuroimaging. All trainees take the required neuroimaging courses as well as a self-paced reading curriculum.

The required courses are the following:

  1. Digital Techniques in Radiological Sciences, which covers the basic principles of the digital technology used in radiological sciences and discusses the relationship between computers and diagnostic equipment with regard to data acquisition, equipment interfacing, and data analysis;
  2. Neuroanatomy: Structure of the Nervous System, which teaches the anatomy of central and peripheral nervous system at the cellular histological and regional systems level; and
  3. Neuroimaging: Theory and Practice, which covers various imaging technique, data collection, analysis and reconstruction, assessment of what is measured, and applications of the various methodologies to the study of sensory, motor, and integrated responses in animal and man.

Trainees participate in a well-established productive research program of sufficient breadth to prepare them as competitive investigators. The first year is primarily devoted to course work and 10 week (10 hr/week) laboratory rotations. Post doctoral trainees take a minimum of 3 courses, including the required neuroimaging course. Pre doctoral students must satisfy the requirements of their respective graduate training program, in addition. The second and third years are devoted to focused research in an individual laboratory. During these years, trainees participate in “affinity groups” of individuals from different laboratories that hold common interests. Collaborative arrangements at other institutions, including the commercial sector, provide visiting opportunities for trainees. These short training sessions provide trainees with opportunities to present their research findings and gain exposure to other research settings.

Program Faculty

Director: Arthur W. Toga, Ph.D.
Co-Director: John C. Mazziotta, MD, Ph.D.

Core Faculty:
Jeffrey R. Alger, Ph.D.
Robert Asarnow, Ph.D.
Susan Y. Bookheimer, Ph.D.
Mark S. Cohen, Ph.D.

Admission

A selection committee, comprised of co-directors and all core faculty, review applicants to the training program at two separate meetings. Applications are reviewed separately for predoctoral and postdoctoral candidates. Applicants are extensively evaluated based upon standardized tests (GRE, MCAT, etc.), undergraduate and graduate scholastic achievement, letters of recommendation, past research experience, personal statement and personal interview by core faculty. All applicants are interviewed prior to acceptance into the program. Interviewees are selected by ranking their dossiers on the above listed criteria.

Predoctoral candidates
Predoctoral candidates first have to be admitted into the degree granting program (Biomedical Physics, Neuroscience, medical school- MSTP). Their dossier is evaluated on both a quantitative metric as well as the interview. Scholastic performance in any postgraduate course work is weighted more heavily than undergraduate work. An applicants’ graduate standing should be academically superior and they should have uniformly excellent to outstanding recommendations. Appropriate laboratory experience and commitment to neuroimaging must be in evidence.

Postdoctoral candidates
Equivalent criteria is used for postdoctoral fellows with the additional requirement that the applicant demonstrate productivity in the form of quality publications, presentations, and other evidence of professional achievement. Postdoctoral MD trainees must have evidence of commitment and demonstrate sufficient interest in science and academic medicine. Residency training in Neuroimaging, Psychiatry, Radiology and related subspecialties is a particular plus.

To apply
Please send your resume to applications@loni.usc.edu. Include a CV, letter of intent, copy of transcripts, standardized test scores, and letters of recommendation.