Federal agencies, charitable foundations, and other research-focused institutions have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the development of preventive interventions to curb mental and behavioral health disorders. Despite this considerable investment, most prevention research has neglected malleable biological mechanisms underlying risk and resilience that may serve as more effective prevention strategy targets.

This omission has led to calls for a multi-system, transdisciplinary approach incorporating perspectives and evidence across numerous relevant fields (e.g., neuroscience, genetics, developmental psychology, epidemiology, behavioral science, and clinical practice) into the field of prevention science. This approach is critical if we hope to significantly advance scientific knowledge and develop successful interventions to redirect trajectories away from mental and behavioral health problems, including more effectively targeted and personalized approaches to intervention.

To help address this need, the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) is supporting a new program focusing on translational neuro-prevention research, called FRONTIER, which stands for: Fostering Research on Neuro-prevention via Translation, Infrastructure, Education and Relationships.

FRONTIER will provide an infrastructure for fostering cross-cutting relationships between basic scientists and intervention and implementation specialists throughout FPG and across UNC to address outstanding questions in the field of prevention. This innovative program will employ a transdisciplinary and translational neuroscience approach as the foundation for meaningful research, practice, and policy.

FRONTIER will integrate theoretical perspectives and empirical methods to:

  • make clear the underpinnings of mental, emotional, and behavioral (MEB) problems;
  • identify mechanisms underlying intervention responsivity;
  • inform more precision-based approaches to prevent and treat MEB problems; and
  • transfer scientific knowledge into an actionable format to inform public and private sector investments.

FRONTIER will build from the research and practice base established by investigators at FPG, UNC, and other top researchers in the field to address the question, “What works best, for whom, why, and under what circumstances?” with greater clarity and precision. By providing a supportive translational research infrastructure to scientists at FPG, UNC, and beyond, FRONTIER aims to exert a significant and lasting impact on child development, family functioning, and community scaffolding.