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Strategy 3.1

Further develop innovative interventions and designs for intervention studies.

Recent advances in basic and clinical research point to exciting new directions for intervention development. Promising approaches include the discovery of novel molecular, circuit-level, and domain-level behavioral targets that are core to mental disorders; the development of corresponding quantitative assessments for use in trials; and the development of novel, robust interventions directed toward such targets, many of which may hold potential for application across disorders. NIMH encourages applications that identify new targets for intervention; develop new treatments based on these targets; or test new approaches for assessing intervention effects. In general, lower priority will be given to applications that study therapeutics, or combinations of therapeutics, with already demonstrated effectiveness without a strong empirical justification for an adaptation or augmentation trial (see Objectives 3.2 and 3.3). NIMH will also assign lower priority to trials of patented medications that lack superior efficacy or safety relative to currently available off-patent medications.

Research Priorities

  1. Support research that identifies novel therapeutic targets and new pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments (cognitive, affective, behavioral, physiological, and devices), that possess greater efficacy, have fewer side effects, and have enhanced potential for impacting disease onset, progression, and outcomes.

    Priority areas include:

    1. Developing novel preclinical model systems to identify new targets and to assess and validate the specificity and relevance of therapeutic approaches (e.g., receptor targets, signaling pathways, plasticity mechanisms, neurodevelopmental processes, domains of functioning).
    2. Identifying novel targets or further developing emerging target approaches (e.g., allosteric modulators, intracellular signaling modulators, and transcriptional regulators).
    3. Developing treatments (e.g., small molecules, biologics, devices, cognitive/behavioral exercises) that target specific neural circuits critical for specific domains of cognitive and emotional function relevant to mental disorders.
    4. Developing treatments that target core mechanisms related to the prodromal, acute onset, and progressive stages of mental illness.
  2. Foster new interventions appropriate for different life stages (e.g., pediatric, adolescent, young adult, adult, and geriatric).
  3. Priority areas include:

    1. Developing novel therapeutic agents and approaches that have particular effectiveness at specific, targeted stages of CNS development.
    2. Studying behavioral plasticity alone or in conjunction with therapeutics designed to address developmental abnormalities, by targeting identifiable mechanisms.
    3. Establishing the safety and efficacy for children of therapeutic interventions studied in adult populations.

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