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VUís educational neuroscience Ph.D. program first in U.S.

BY: JENNIFER WETZEL

6/07/2012 - Vanderbilt University is leading the way in research that merges the fields of education and neuroscience by launching the country’s first Ph.D. program in educational neuroscience.

Slated to begin in the fall, this interdisciplinary program brings together Vanderbilt’s No. 1-ranked Peabody College of education and human development and the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, which administers one of the nation’s largest and highest ranking neuroscience programs, to research educational issues within a brain science context.

Educational neuroscience is an emerging area of inquiry within the broader landscape of modern neuroscience. This new program responds to an increased demand for further scientific understanding in the areas of child development, educational assessment, educational intervention and family processes.

Camilla Benbow, Ed.D.

Camilla Benbow, Ed.D.

Mark Wallace, Ph.D.

Mark Wallace, Ph.D.

“We believe that educational neuroscience is the new frontier in education, where there will be exciting discoveries that can enhance the learning capacity for all,” said Camilla Benbow, Ed.D., Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College. “I am pleased to have Peabody College as a partner in this collaboration that is leading the way into the future.”

Mark Wallace, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, says this new program has the potential to use contemporary neuroscience approaches and knowledge to create better learning environments for children.

“Vanderbilt is at the forefront of this new area, with tremendous strengths in both neuroscience and education,” Wallace said.

“With two of the nation’s premier programs in these domains, it seems only natural to merge these strengths and to build a world-class research and training program focused on educational neuroscience.”

Research combining education and neuroscience is already under way at Vanderbilt. For instance, Peabody’s Laurie Cutting, Ph.D., is collaborating with Sheryl Rimrodt, M.D., in Pediatrics and John Gore, Ph.D., of the Institute of Imaging Sciences, to study how the brain is reorganized in children as they learn to read.

Another study is investigating how genes may predispose some individuals to act aggressively and is being led by Peabody Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Special Education Craig Kennedy, Ph.D., in collaboration with pharmacology’s Randy Blakely, Ph.D., and John Phillips, M.D., of Pediatrics.

Through this new doctoral program, these and other important educational issues can be studied in order to develop a better understanding of how the brain learns, and as a result, more effective ways of teaching could emerge.

The educational neuroscience program adds a third strand to the Vanderbilt Brain Institute’s neuroscience training, which already includes emphases in cellular and molecular neuroscience and cognitive and systems neuroscience.

In addition to Peabody and the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, the educational neuroscience program is a collaboration between the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, the Center for Integrative and Cognitive Neuroscience and the Institute of Imaging Sciences.

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