Develop an integrative understanding of basic brain-behavior processes that provide the foundation for understanding mental disorders.
NIMH encourages research on brain-behavior processes including emotion, executive function, impulsivity, social cognition, and memory, as well as research on model systems aimed at determining the neurobiological bases of these processes. Discovery-based and/or hypothesis-driven studies examining mechanisms of regulation or dysregulation of these domains are of particular interest. Investigators are encouraged to integrate their research across levels of analysis; utilize neurodevelopmental approaches; and study sex/gender differences. While a broad portfolio of behavioral research is supported by NIMH, higher priority will be given to studies linking behavioral research with neurobiological mechanisms. NIMH is also committed to a broad portfolio of animal research, with high priority given to studies of model animals (e.g. flies or mice with a mutation or allele relevant to human disease).
- Support research on the development, structure, and function of neural circuits with a focus on those most relevant to mental disorders.
Priority areas include:
- Probing the connectivity of brain networks, especially networks involving the prefrontal cortex during periods of risk for mental illness.
- Applying non-invasive techniques to understand the development and functions of brain networks; how changes in functional connectivity predispose to dysfunction; and/or how these changes may predict therapeutic efficacy.
- Studying plasticity (cellular, synaptic, circuit, and behavioral) and applying novel approaches to elucidate the neurobiological mechanisms of adaptive changes.
- Validating and applying novel models or model systems to examine normal and pathological neural processes; identifying the molecular components and/or circuits impacting domains of function at the core of mental disorders that may serve as targets for therapeutic and tool development.
- Identifying the mechanisms that underlie behavioral changes across development, including epistasis, gene x environment, or gene x development interactions.
- Develop novel tools and methodologies to elucidate how populations of neural cells work together within and between brain regions.
Priority areas include:
- Developing novel imaging tools for visualization and analyses of neuroanatomical structure and function with particular interest in advancing non-invasive approaches for analyzing brain function.
- Developing assays that allow high-throughput phenotyping within simplified in vivo and circuit based cell models.
- Improving human stem cell techniques to study the molecular and cellular basis of mental disorders, including more efficient induction of pluripotency from alternative source cells.
- Improving acquisition, scale-up, and distribution of tissue and cell lines.