Pat Levitt, USC Provost Professor of Neuroscience, Pharmacy, Psychiatry, Pediatrics and Psychology, has been named inaugural director of the Developmental Neurogenetics Program of the newly created Institute for the Developing Mind within The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
The Institute for the Developing Mind, envisioned to become an internationally recognized center for innovative research, diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorders, will provide comprehensive, interdisciplinary research and clinical services at CHLA and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
“With Dr. Levitt’s recruitment to the Institute for the Developing Mind, we begin a new chapter in our commitment to improving the lives of children with neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Brent Polk, director of The Saban Research Institute at CHLA and chair of the Department of Pediatrics and professor of pediatrics and biochemistry and molecular biology at the Keck School. “One in three families is affected by behavioral or neurodevelopmental disorders in children. As this story unfolds, we expect the program to provide a better understanding of the relationship between genetics and environmental influences on the development of behavior and cognitive function.”
As a leader within the institute, Levitt will establish a new program in developmental neurogenetics, initiating innovative basic and clinical research focused on understanding the role of genes and the environment in brain development. His work is concentrated on identifying how these factors come together to influence brain architecture, and how alterations in this process can cause brain disorders in children.
“In this leadership role, Dr. Levitt will collaborate with colleagues in brain imaging and behavioral neuroscience to discover new strategies to identify children who are at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders and deliver individualized treatment and preventive care that creates immediate impact and long-lasting positive outcomes,” said Michele Kipke, division chief, Research on Children, Youth and Families, and vice chair of research in the Department of Pediatrics.
Levitt will continue to direct the Neuroscience Graduate Program at USC and will also spearhead an initiative to develop and lead an interdisciplinary autism center, bringing together experts from across the three campuses of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and USC.
“Pat Levitt’s dedication to students and education has made him an invaluable resource for our students,” said Carmen A. Puliafito, dean of the Keck School of Medicine. “Autism is one of the most compelling study areas in neuroscience, and in his new position Dr. Levitt will serve as an important guide to numerous young researchers searching for solutions to this complex disorder.”
Throughout his career, Levitt’s research has focused on the role of genes and the environment on the developing circuitry of the brain, the molecular and developmental basis of neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. His research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1983.