During nervous system development, the generation of the appropriate diversity and distribution of cell types, their migration to correct sites in the brain and ultimately the establishment of precise interconnectivity are all critical to normal healthy brain function. Given the enormous complexity of brain wiring, there are many points during development when this process may go awry. These can range from familial genetic disorders to de novo mutations to environmental effects that impact the proper balance of cell types and connectivity.
Neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder, may not manifest until long after birth and in some cases only in adulthood, when some environmental stressor reveals an underlying problem. It is therefore important to direct research toward developing our understanding of the developmental mechanisms, both genetic and environmental, that are required to wire up the healthy brain, and how these might be derailed in disease.
The neurodevelopmental research axis consists of geneticists, cell biologists, neuroimagers and clinical scientists working to reveal these mechanisms and how they work together during development and later in life to mediate healthy neurological function.