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Director’s Report to the 227th National Advisory Mental Health Council — January 14, 2011


I am pleased to welcome members of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC), speakers, and guests to our 227th meeting. In this report I will share with you information about new and ongoing initiatives at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).


NIH is currently operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) that extends through March 4, 2011. The CR provides for funding at fiscal year (FY) 2010 enacted levels, which is $1.489 billion for NIMH. The FY 2011 President’s Budget Request, submitted to Congress last winter, included $1.540 billion for NIMH, which would represent an increase of $50.6 million or 3.39 percent over the FY 2010 level. While Congress has not yet passed a budget for FY 2011, the President’s request continues to be the starting point for negotiations. The House Budget Committee, within the next few days, is expected to renew consideration of an FY 2011 budget by establishing spending targets, which would be followed by consideration in the House Appropriations Committee. Between now and the expiration of the current CR, we anticipate that Congress will pass either another short-term CR, a CR for the full remainder of FY 2011, or a new budget for the remainder of FY 2011 reflecting a compromise between the President’s request and Congress.

While operating under a CR, in accordance with NIH policy, we have been issuing non-competing research grant awards at 90% of the previously committed level, and we plan to continue this practice until a final FY 2011 appropriation is enacted. This is consistent with our practice during the CRs of FYs 2006–2010. For new grants, until we have a final budget, NIMH is assuming a funding level below the FY 2010 budget. Under these constraints, we will not be issuing awards for grants beyond the 10th percentile. NIMH will consider adjustments to these levels once the final appropriation is enacted.

NIH-Wide Updates

Scientific Management Review Board: Two Important Recommendations

NIH’s Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) has issued recommendations regarding the creation of a new Institute focusing on substance use, abuse, and addiction research and related public health initiatives. This new Institute would integrate the relevant research portfolios from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and other NIH Institutes and Centers. NIH accepted the proposed realignment of NIH programs into a single, new Institute devoted to addiction. A task force is charged with looking carefully across the NIH’s 27 Institutes and Centers to determine which programs could be moved into the proposed Institute. The working goal, pending Congressional approval, is to launch the new institute in October, 2012.

In addition, the SMRB has recommended that NIH establish a new Center devoted to advancing translational sciences. As currently envisioned, the central role of the proposed National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) would be to establish a focused, integrated and systematic approach for building new bridges to link basic discovery research with diagnostics and therapeutics development. The Center would be formed initially by integrating selected translational research programs now located within the National Human Genome Research Institute, the National Center for Research Resources (including the CTSAs) and the NIH Director’s Common Fund (including the Molecular Libraries Program). Another component may be the new Cures Acceleration Network, which was authorized by the Affordable Care Act, but has not yet received funding from Congress. The working goal is to launch NCATS by October, 2011. A comment period has been opened by NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

NIH Common Fund Programs and Initiatives

The NIH Common Fund, enacted into law by Congress through the NIH Reform Act of 2006, encourages collaboration across NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) to support cross-cutting, high impact programs. Four of the programs in which NIMH has a leadership role are described here.

Molecular Libraries Program

The Molecular Libraries Program (MLP) aims to enhance chemical biology research efforts via high throughput screening (HTS) to obtain small molecule probes effective at modulating a given biological process or disease state. The program’s Molecular Libraries Production Centers Network (MLPCN) offers biomedical investigators access to: large-scale automated screening; a diverse library of 370,000 small molecules; medicinal chemistry resources; and information on the biological activities of small molecules in the repository as well as the probes and analogs generated in the HTS assay campaigns. As of December 9, 2010, the MLP has selected 386 HTS assay projects for entry into the MLPCN production pipeline. The HTS assay campaigns undertaken to date have led to 451 chemistry projects and generated 199 small molecule probes.

At the Society for Neuroscience’s 2010 meeting in San Diego, the MLP sponsored a satellite symposium on “Discovery of Molecular Probes.” The presenters, grantees Roger Tsien, Ph.D., and Jeffrey Conn, Ph.D., spotlighted opportunities for discovery by exploiting advances in HTS using robotics and the principles of chemical biology. Such hi-tech approaches are offering shortcuts to addressing some of our most pressing challenges.

To date, the MLPCN has advanced a number of probes into early stages of drug development. Prominent among these successes is a promising target for medications to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) by NIMH grantee Hugh Rosen, M.D., Ph.D., of the Scripps Research Institute’s MLP-funded Comprehensive Center for Chemical Probes Discovery and Optimization.

The GTEx (Genotype-Tissue Expression) Project

The Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project’s goal is to understand how genetic variation may control gene activity across organs and tissues of individuals. GTEx aims to provide to the scientific community a resource with which to study human gene expression, regulation, and its relationship to genetic variation. This project will collect and analyze multiple human tissues from donors who will be densely genotyped, to assess genetic variation within their genomes. By analyzing global RNA expression within individual tissues and treating the expression levels of genes as quantitative traits, variations in gene expression that are highly correlated with genetic variation can be identified as expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL). Donor collections and tissue analysis are set to begin in the spring of 2011.

GTEx launches as a 2-year, $25 million pilot study supported by the NIH Common Fund. The GTEx pilot project currently supports three biospecimen source sites, and a laboratory data analysis and coordinating center. Organized under the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Cancer Human Biobank (caHUB) initiative, the biospecimen source sites will recruit donors and collect the tissues.

HMO Collaboratory

Data from large integrated health care systems have been used successfully by several Federal agencies and NIH Institutes — including NCI, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, and more recently NIMH — to help ensure that health care interventions are effective, safe, more personalized, and cost-effective. Through Common Fund support, the NIH intends to leverage and harmonize these efforts involving health maintenance organizations (HMOs), to maximize their usefulness for biomedical research. The NIH Collaboratory effort will also take advantage of large health care systems to develop new cross-cutting research capacities, such as using high-throughput technologies for mega-epidemiology studies and employing innovative information technology to more efficiently conduct comparative effectiveness trials. The NIH HMO Collaboratory effort will help poise NIH to support new collaborative biomedical research, as well as health care system reform.

Health Economics Program

Implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 will require ensuring that patients have access to high value care while helping to slow the growth of health care costs. To assist in this challenging process, the NIH has launched the Common Fund Health Economics program to address the evolving needs of the health care sector for economic research. Program goals include: fostering the collection of data useful for policy-relevant analysis; examining the economic effects of changes in incentives for consumers, providers and insurers; exploring ways in which the structure and organization of health care delivery system changes affect patient clinical outcomes and health care spending; and investigating the potential of preventive measures to improve health outcomes and mitigate cost growth.

National Database for Autism Research

On October 22, 2010, the National Database for Autism Research (NDAR) announced its first data release. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) researchers can now access data from more than 10,000 participants enrolled in ASD studies. NDAR is designed to provide tools to define and standardize complex data collected by various laboratories under different protocols. The NDAR portal allows researchers to perform queries that simultaneously yield results from multiple datasets. The portal is intentionally designed to ensure a collaborative approach to research and open data access to the whole ASD community. Researchers supported through the NIH Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) were the first to contribute data to NDAR in 2008. Since then, NDAR staff has been working to define, standardize and transfer data into NDAR from earlier NIH programs, such as the Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism (CPEA) and Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment (STAART). Data from the majority of ASD grants that were recently funded through the Recovery Act of 2009, as well as data from other ASD studies conducted at NIH, will also be submitted to and shared through NDAR. It is expected that data from newly-initiated NIH-funded autism research will be added to NDAR. ASD researchers have been encouraged to contribute their study data, regardless of funding source.

Peer Review Enhancement


The NIH issued Guide Notice NOT-OD-11-021 to remind applicants of policies affecting submissions on or after January 25, 2011. This includes the policy on page limits and acceptable use of sections with no page limits, the end of the two-day correction window, a new time limit for NIH resubmission applications, and post-submission application materials.

Plain Language/Clear Communication

In support of the NIH mission, it is vital that the scientific and public heath value of NIH-funded research be shared with researchers and members of the public. NIH is strongly encouraging applicants to use clear, succinct, professional language in titles, abstracts, and statements of public health relevance in all applications submitted to NIH. Once funded, these portions of the application are publicly available on the NIH website RePORTER. Peer reviewers expect the use of plain language in these sections and know to look in the body of the application for the technical detail.

For more information on this topic, as well as before and after examples of using plain language in NIH grant applications, visit Communicating Research Intent and Value on the NIH Office of Extramural Research website. NIH also offers tips for the use of plain language on its web page, Clear Communication: An NIH Health Literacy Initiative.

NIMH Updates

Two New Offices formed within the Office of the NIMH Director

In recognition of the increasing complexity of our efforts in the areas of technology development and genomics research, especially with regard to coordination, broad sharing, and strategic investment, two new offices have been established at NIMH: the Office of Genomics Research and Coordination (OGRC), and the Office of Technology Development and Coordination (OTDC).

OGRC is charged with coordinating and overseeing all NIMH (extramural and intramural) genomics research efforts, ensuring a coherent strategic approach to the research being supported and related activities at the Institute. Thomas Lehner, Ph.D., M.P.H., who currently serves as the Chief of the Genomics Research Branch in the Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science, will assume the responsibility of Director for OGRC.

OTDC will be responsible for oversight of all NIMH efforts related to technology development, bioinformatics, and repositories. This scope will include both intramural and extramural efforts. In addition, management for the National Database for Autism Research (NDAR) will be folded into this office. Michael Huerta, Ph.D., currently NIMH Associate Director for Technology, will be the Director for OTDC.

In addition to the importance of coordinating activities in these two areas within NIMH, both Drs. Lehner and Huerta have been and will continue to be involved in many trans-NIH activities.

Developing New Interventions and Sharing Data

Last year, NAMHC provided recommendations on how best to develop new interventions. A Council workgroup met through the winter of 2010 to discuss opportunities and challenges in the field of treatment development. The end product of this workgroup was the development of a scientifically important report, From Discovery to Cure: Accelerating the Development of New and Personalized Interventions for Mental Illness (PDF file). Guided by the report’s recommendations, NIMH will follow two parallel paths: developing the next generation of interventions, based on a better understanding of the disorders; and, optimizing the use of current treatments based on a better understanding of individual differences in treatment response. Integral to these efforts will be the Institute’s focus on resources for personalized and preemptive medicine. The Establishing Moderators/Mediators for a Biosignature of Antidepressant Response in Clinical Care study noted in this report is a great example of our new focus on personalized medicine for mental disorders.

Another set of recommendations from NAMHC’s September meeting deserves a special note. Presentations and discussions at the meeting stressed the need for the standardized metrics and the integration and sharing of data. Standardizing metrics will provide common data elements for clinical research. Integration involves the coordination of data across sites and projects, so that NIMH investments can be leveraged more effectively and extensively. Rapid and comprehensive data sharing, which has been critical to progress in fields such as genomics, will become an expectation in other research areas as we develop standardized protocols. The Institute is exploring how to facilitate standardization, integration, and data sharing to ensure we are making the most effective use of public funds.

New Resource for Mental Health Statistics

NIMH recently launched a new mental health statistics resource on our website. This resource includes the best mental health research information from across the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal departments, and places it within an easy-to-navigate format. It represents a vast expansion from NIMH’s previous statistics pages and is organized using navigational tabs for each of the four main categories of data: prevalence, disability, suicide, and cost. Each of the graphics found in the resource is accessible in PDF format for users to print and share electronically, and the data provided are consistent with the recommendations in HHS’s Healthy People 2020 initiative. This resource will be updated regularly as new mental health data from across the federal government are reported and its format will continue to evolve in order to ensure the most straightforward usability and clearest presentation of information.

Research Training and Career Development

Increasing the diversity of our research workforce is an Institute priority. Ongoing programs addressing this priority include: 1) the Individual Predoctoral Fellowship to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (PA-10-109); 2) the Mental Health Dissertation Research Grant to Increase Diversity (PAR-09-132); 3) Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (PA-08-190); and, 4) the NIMH institutional training grants (T32) through each award’s required diversity recruitment and retention plan.

Recently, NIMH implemented three recommendations of the 2008 Advisory Council Workgroup on Research Training (PDF file):

  • NIMH led NIH’s Blueprint for Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences (BP-ENDURE). This program links research-intensive universities to institutions with substantial enrollments of neuroscience majors from traditionally underrepresented groups and supports activities to increase student interest in the neurosciences with the goal of increasing the diversity of individuals matriculating in graduate neuroscience programs. Five programs were funded totaling approximately $10.3 million over 5 years (read the National Institute of General Medical Science press release for a listing of the grant recipients and partner schools).
  • NIMH issued an RFA (RFA-MH-10-050) to develop innovative national mentoring networks for individuals from diverse backgrounds. Applications have been received and will be peer reviewed in February and March 2011. The second level of review will occur at the May 2011 NAMHC meeting.
  • NIMH launched the NIMH Program to Enhance Diversity in Institutional Training, an administrative supplement program for active T32 awards. This program is designed to increase the number of individuals from diverse backgrounds who benefit from NIMH-funded T32 programs. In fiscal year 2010, NIMH awarded four additional training positions to T32s through this program. T32 Program Directors interested in submitting an application for this supplement program are encouraged to contact their Program Officer.

NIMH Upcoming Meeting

Sex Differences in Brain, Behavior, Mental Health and Mental Disorders

The Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science (DNBBS) and the Division of Developmental Translational Research (DDTR) will be co-sponsoring a workshop titled “Sex Differences in Brain, Behavior, Mental Health and Mental Disorders” that will be held from February 28 to March 1, 2011 at NIH’s Neuroscience Center in Rockville, Maryland. Sex differences clearly influence the susceptibility to and prevalence of psychiatric disorders, but the neurobiological mechanisms underlying such sex differences remain largely unknown. At this workshop, we will focus on basic animal and human research directed at understanding the mechanisms by which sex differences in affective, cognitive, and social behaviors arise. We will also consider these topics in light of developmental trajectories. Goals include identifying critical gaps in MH-relevant sex difference research, identifying innovative approaches to the study of sex differences, and increasing the number of NIMH-funded projects investigating mechanisms of sex-specific risks for mental disorders.

Recent NIH and NIMH Meetings of Interest

NIMH at the USA Science and Engineering Festival

In an effort to foster science literacy, NIMH, along with several other NIH institutes, participated in the USA Science and Engineering Festival on and around the National Mall in Washington, DC. The October festival was created to promote public interest in science through engaging, hands-on activities. NIH was a sponsor of the event, and participated to promote interest in biomedical careers and the importance of research to everyone’s health.

Over 40 NIMH scientists and staff members planned and executed numerous interesting activities designed to increase awareness of the brain and mental health among people of all ages. One exhibit provided a walk-through sensory experience of the brain’s four cortical lobes and their functions. Others provided fun activities designed to show children how brains compensate when senses are challenged by external stimuli, and what parts of the brain control what functions. The festival, which attracted thousands of children and adults from across the nation, was a huge success for both the families who visited and the NIMH staff who participated.

NIH Director’s Pioneer Award Symposium

The Sixth Annual NIH Director’s Pioneer Award Symposium, held September 30 to October 1, 2010 in Bethesda, Maryland showcased the research of the 2005 Pioneer Award Recipients, featuring thematically grouped presentations by Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D. (Stanford University), Giulio Tononi, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical Center), Hollis Cline, Ph.D. (Scripps Research Institute), Erich Jarvis, Ph.D. (Duke University Medical School), and Leda Cosmides, Ph.D. (University of California, Santa Barbara). Poster sessions were presented on both days by 2010 Pioneer and New Innovator awardees. Under the Common Fund, the NIH Roadmap has created three programs with funding opportunities specifically geared toward scientists of exceptional creativity who take highly innovative, and often risky or unconventional, approaches to major contemporary challenges in biomedical or behavioral research. Specifically, Pioneer Awards recognize scientists whose proposed research reflects ideas substantially different from those already being pursued in the investigator’s laboratory or elsewhere.

Fresh Perspectives in Perinatal Depression Research: Psychosocial Interventions and Mental Health Services

On October 5-6, 2010, the NIMH Division of Services and Intervention Research (DSIR) convened a workshop to provide the growing number of early-stage investigators studying psychosocial intervention and services related to perinatal depression with the opportunity to discuss research strategies consistent with public health needs and NIMH priorities. NIMH priorities for perinatal depression align with current developments in federal healthcare legislation concerning the mental health of pregnant and post-partum women. Research priorities also address calls for comparative effectiveness research and personalized intervention approaches; emerging developments in novel research diagnostic criteria; and implementation of the NIMH Strategic Plan and the NAMHC workgroup report, From Discovery to Cure: Accelerating the Development of New and Personalized Interventions (PDF). The workshop provided a forum for perinatal depression investigators along with NIMH and NIH staff to review and discuss current psychosocial services and intervention research. Breakout sessions included a discussion led by NIMH’s Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health on the role of fathers and pediatricians, as well as global research related to this topic.

Using Stem Cells to Model Psychiatric Disorders: NIH Grantees Meeting

On October 26, 2010, NIMH convened a meeting of 27 scientists who used patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) as tools to identify fundamental molecular and cellular defects and the role of altered developmental processes in psychiatric disorders. The meeting addressed progress and future goals following the first year of funding (primarily through RFA-MH-09-130 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009). Topics included the relative merits of different patient selection criteria, optimizing iPSC derivation and validation techniques, the development of new cellular assays with relevance to disease, and how best to share resources and data in order to accelerate progress in the field. Participants agreed that most immediate traction would be found in patients with specific rare variants of large effect, which would require fewer patients to be sufficiently powered. Alternatively, some participants noted cases where non-genetic parameters could reflect common mechanistic pathways affected by multiple gene variants of small effect and thus serve as useful patient selection criteria. While methods for generating and assaying enriched populations of cells were improving, substantial exploratory work and validation remains to be done in order to optimize assays that meaningfully and specifically address the basis of psychiatric disorders. Resource sharing was viewed as critical to provide standardized reagents and build sufficiently powered sample sizes. Most encouraged centralized banking of source cells (e.g., fibroblasts) and their linkage to comprehensive data on the relevant patient populations (e.g., genetics, diagnostic parameters).

Bridging Science, Treatment and Public Education of Anxiety Disorders: A Memorial Tribute to the Life and Work of Jerilyn Ross

This symposium was held November 19, 2010 in Rockville, Maryland. Sponsored by the NIMH Division of Intramural Research Programs (IRP), the symposium featured Ron Kessler, Ph.D., Elizabeth Phelps, Ph.D., Daniel Pine, M.D., Kerry Ressler, M.D., Ph.D. and H. Blair Simpson, M.D., Ph.D. NIMH’s Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D., served as substitute moderator when National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm became ill and was unable to host the tribute. The Ross Symposium drew a large and appreciative audience of scientists and the general public for a panel discussion on advances in the developmental neuroscience of fear and anxiety and an examination of the impact of translational research on the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Third Annual Trauma Spectrum Conference: Emerging Research on Polytrauma, Recovery and Reintegration of Service members, Veterans and their Families

The Third Annual Trauma Spectrum Conference was held December 7 – 8, 2010 in the Natcher Center on NIH’s main campus. The purpose of this conference is to enhance and promote continued collaboration among the Department of Defense, the NIH, the Veterans Administration and key stakeholders, including researchers, academics, other federal partners and military and civilian personnel dedicated to improving the lives of Servicemembers, veterans and their families. Areas of focus for this year’s conference included: emerging research for traumatic brain injury, psychological health conditions, and other traumatic injuries; emerging treatments in support of polytrauma recovery and reintegration; informing practice regarding the needs of caregivers and families dealing with a polytrauma patient; addressing health, psychosocial, gender, cultural, geographic, and other disparities that may impact diagnosis, care, treatment, and recovery concerns around polytrauma; and raising awareness for future developments of treatments, practices, and policies.

Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health Leadership Meeting

NIMH’s Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health hosted the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health Leadership Meeting December 20-21, 2010. The Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health is a consensus-building exercise led by NIMH and the Global Alliance for Chronic Disease in partnership with the Wellcome Trust, the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This workshop convened members of the Executive Committee and Scientific Advisory Board of the Grand Challenges initiative to finalize the top 40 grand challenges and prepare for their dissemination.

Grantee Awards

  • Laurence F. Abbott, Ph.D., William Bloor Professor of Theoretical New Science at Columbia University, received the Swartz Prize for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience presented by the Society for Neuroscience on November 22, 2010.
  • Huda Akil, Ph.D., was awarded the Paul Hoch Distinguished Service Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) in recognition of outstanding service to ACNP at the December 2010 ACNP Annual Meeting.
  • Joseph D. Buxbaum, Ph.D., was awarded the Joel Elkes Research Award from the ACNP in recognition of an outstanding clinical/translational contribution to neuropsychopharmacology at the December 2010 ACNP Annual Meeting.
  • Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., was awarded the Efron Award from the ACNP for outstanding basic/translational research contributions to neuropsychopharmacology at the December 2010 ACNP Annual Meeting.
  • David J. Kupfer, M.D., was awarded the Julius Axelrod Mentorship Award from the ACNP for outstanding contributions to neuropsychopharmacology by mentoring and developing young scientists into leaders in the field at the December 2010 ACNP Annual Meeting.
  • Luis de Lecea, Ph.D., and Patrick M. Loerch, Ph.D., were each awarded the ACNP Presidential Initiative Award for outstanding work in integrative behavioral neuroscience. Both were awarded at the December 2010 ACNP Annual Meeting.
  • Joseph E. LeDoux, Ph.D., Professor of Science at New York University and Principal Director for the NIMH funded Center for the Neuroscience of Fear and Anxiety, received the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in June 2010 for his research findings that have led to novel ways of treating anxiety disorders.
  • Ming T. Tsuang, M.D., Ph.D., D. Sc., of the University of California, San Diego, was awarded the 2010 Lieber Prize in recognition of his distinguished research contributions toward a better understanding of schizophrenia. The prize, which is accompanied by a $50,000 award funded by the Essel Foundation, was presented at the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders’ “Discovery to Recovery” Gala Awards Dinner held October 29th in New York City. The Lieber Prize rewards past achievement and provides further incentive for an outstanding working scientist to continue to do exceptional research into the causes, prevention and treatment of schizophrenia. Dr. Tsuang is the principal investigator of two active NIMH grants through the Genetics and Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders Branches.

NIMH Awards and Honors

  • Mortimer Mishkin, Ph.D., Chief of the Section on Cognitive Neuroscience and Acting Chief of its Laboratory of Neuropsychology at NIMH’s IRP, was awarded the 2009 National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama on November 17, 2010 in the East Room of the White House. Dr. Mishkin was one of ten eminent researchers recognized for their outstanding contributions in the areas of Science, Technology and Innovation with the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists, engineers and inventors. President Obama gave the following tribute in his honor, “The 2009 National Medal of Science to Mortimer Mishkin, National Institutes of Health, for his contributions to understanding the neural basis of perception and memory in primates, notably the delineation of sensory neocortical processing systems especially for vision, audition and somatic sensation and the organization of memory systems in the brain.” Dr. Mishkin is an innovative leader and exemplary scientist who has worked in the DIRP since 1955. In a series of meticulous studies spanning more than five decades, he and his colleagues discovered much about how the brain processes input from the senses and encodes memory. He has the distinction of being the first NIMH intramural scientist to receive this honor. He is also a Member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • Robert A. Mays, Jr., Ph.D., MSW, Chief, Rural Mental Health Research Program, Office of Rural Mental Health Research was honored on October 25, 2010 by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Foundation, as an NASW Social Work Pioneer, in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the social work profession and its ability to meet the needs of all people.

NIMH Staff News


  • Patrick Bender, Ph.D., has joined the Genomics Research Branch in DNBBS after serving as a contract Health Scientist Administrator for the past year. Dr Bender received his Ph.D. in Biophysics from the University of Virginia. After his postdoctoral fellowship, he accepted a faculty position in the Biology Department at the University of Virginia, and later accepted a faculty position in the Biochemistry Department at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI). He left VPI in 1996 for a position directing the Molecular Biology Laboratories at the Coriell Institute, where he directed NIH-supported repository services for nucleic acids production and repository applied research, and served as PI/Co-PI on grant supported research. Dr Bender will oversee the Translational Genomics and Genetic Basis of Mental Disorders programs.
  • Sarah E. Morris, Ph.D., joined NIMH in December 2010 as Chief in the Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders Research Program in the Adult Psychopathology and Psychosocial Intervention Research Branch of the Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development (DATR). Dr. Morris earned her B.A. in Psychology from Scripps College and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she studied the processing of emotional and auditory stimuli and error detection in schizophrenia using psychophysiological methods. She completed a clinical internship at the West Los Angeles Veteran Administration (VA) Medical Center and a post-doctoral fellowship at the Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC) at the Baltimore VA Medical Center. Following her fellowship, Dr. Morris joined the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and continued as an investigator at the MIRECC. She also served as Director of the VA Maryland Health Care System/University of Maryland Baltimore Psychology Internship Consortium. Her research has focused on learning, reward processing and self-monitoring in schizophrenia using event-related brain potentials and on remediation of cognitive deficits in schizophrenia.
  • Michael W. Vogel, M.D., joined the Office of Research Training and Career Development in DNBBS as a Health Scientist Administrator on November 7, 2010. Dr. Vogel comes to the NIMH from the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine where he was an associate professor and an active member of the Neuroscience Graduate Program. He has research interests in neurodevelopment, neuroinflammation, and mental disorders.
  • Yin Yao, Ph.D., M.P.H., has been named Chief of the Unit on Statistical Genetics in the IRP following a nation-wide search. Beginning January 16th, Dr. Yao will lead a research effort to develop novel statistics for testing interactions between linked and unlinked genetic variants and the potential interactions between these variants. Her laboratory will be located on the NIH main campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Yao received her B.A. in Medicine from Shanghai Second Medical University, her M.S. in Biology from the University of Nebraska and her M.P.H. from Columbia University. She obtained her Ph.D. in Statistical Genetics with Dr. Jurg Ott at Columbia and completed postdoctoral training at the International Agency of Cancer Research in Lyon, France under the mentorship of Dr. David Goldgar. In 2001, she accepted a faculty position in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and in 2005 was promoted to Associate Professor. Since 2007 she has worked as a Health Scientist Administrator in DNBBS and has also retained an adjunct faculty position at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.


  • Joanne Severe, M.S., who has been the Chief, Clinical Trials Operations and Biostatistics Unit in DSIR for the past 10 years, retired from federal employment on December 31, 2010 after over 40 years at NIMH. Joanne’s main focus has been stewarding the Institute’s multisite effectiveness intervention trials, including some of NIMH’s largest, such as Clinical Antipsychotic Trials in Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE), Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D), Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS), Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD), and Preventing Relapse in Schizophrenia: Oral Antipsychotics Compared To Injectables: Evaluating Efficacy (PROACTIVE). She was instrumental in the development of the NIMH Clinical Trials Networks in schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder, as well as in overseeing the establishment and process for making NIMH clinical trial datasets available for public access. Her expertise in clinical trials operations has been invaluable and she closes her stellar NIMH career as a pivotal team member for the NIMH Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) Project and as a consultant on the Army Study To Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS). In retirement she plans to work as an independent consultant focusing on interventions and clinical trials research and methodology activities, as well as pursue other personal interests.

In memoriam

  • James Winslow, Ph.D., a dedicated and much loved member of the NIMH IRP community, died November 17 at his home in Rockville, Maryland after a long battle with cancer. Jim's professional career began with his postdoctoral studies with Tom Insel at NIMH from 1987-1993, continued at Hoechst-Roussel Pharmaceuticals in New Jersey and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, and finally came full circle with his appointment in 2003 as Head of the Neurobiology Non-Human Primate Core at the IRP. While Jim leaves a legacy of extraordinary scientific accomplishments, he will be most remembered for his collegiality, sense of humor and generous spirit. He leaves his wife, Kate Egan, and two children, Sean and Katherine.