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The NGP arose in the mid-1970s based on a recognized need for a new form of interdisciplinary training for Neuroscientists. It became clear that such training could not be achieved via traditional programs based in individual departments, and that cooperative efforts would be required to train future leaders in the field. Fortunately, there was already a tradition of interdepartmental cooperation among neuroscientists at the University, which began as a grass roots effort in the late 1960s with the formation of the Virginia Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience. 

During the early 1970s, Neuroscientists in several departments began to organize graduate courses in the neurosciences, and an integrated course in Medical Neuroscience. In 1976, faculty from basic and clinical departments in the School of Medicine (SOM) and College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) developed an interdepartmental degree-granting program (the NGP), which was approved by the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia in 1977. The first student was accepted into the NGP in the fall of 1978. Today, the NGP continues as function as an interdepartmental program, a defining precept that was officially agreed upon and approved in 1987 by the Deans of the SOM and CAS.