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Director’s Report to the 232nd National Advisory Mental Health Council


I am pleased to welcome members of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC), speakers and guests to our 232nd meeting. In this report I will share with you information about new and ongoing initiatives at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).


NIMH is on track to award approximately 565 new and competing research project grants (RPGs) in fiscal year (FY) 2012, a significant increase over the 465 awarded in FY 2011 and a level that is consistent with the 2008-2010 average of 558. This increase was fueled in part by austerity measures taken in the previous FY and by a reallocation of funds to maximize the number of extramural grants. NIMH expects to support Early Stage Investigator (ESI) applications at a success rate equivalent to that of established investigator applications, and to support over 100 New Investigators (NIs) in FY 2012.

In recent years, competing RPGs reviewed during September/October Council and selected for funding generally have been awarded after the changeover in fiscal years. This year, facing uncertainty in the FY13 budget, we anticipate funding a significantly larger number of September/October Council grants prior to the fiscal year changeover.

Outlook for FY 2013

The FY 2013 President’s Budget (PB) asks for $1.479 billion for NIMH, a slight increase over the FY 2012 level. The Senate Appropriations Committee in June cleared its version of the FY 2013 Labor-Health and Human Services (L-HHS) appropriations bill (S. 3295), which includes $1.484 billion for NIMH, a 0.4 percent increase over FY 2012 estimated actuals. The Senate bill has not yet seen any action on the Senate Floor. In July, the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NIMH included $1.462 billion for NIMH in its draft version of the FY 2013 L-HHS appropriations bill; however, the measure has not yet been considered by the full House Appropriations Committee. The draft House amount would constitute a 1.1 percent reduction below FY 2012.

We anticipate that FY 2013 will begin, like recent years, under a Continuing Resolution (CR). Draft language for a CR was introduced in the House on September 10, 2012 that would provide funding through March 27, 2013 at a rate slightly higher than FY 2012 enacted levels. It is likely that the House will pass the CR this week, with Senate action soon thereafter. While operating under a CR, we will issue non-competing research grant awards at a level below that indicated on the most recent Notice of Grant Award (generally up to 90 percent of the previously committed level). As in previous CRs, we look forward to upward adjustments after the final appropriation is enacted later in the year and after NIH’s policy for funding non-competing commitments is finalized.

HHS Updates

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Paolo del Vecchio, M.S.W. has been selected to serve as the next Director of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) after a national search. In this capacity, he will serve as a liaison representative of CMHS to the NAMHC. Over the course of his 17 years in CMHS, Mr. del Vecchio has served as the Acting Director, the CMHS Associate Director for Consumer Affairs, and the Acting Director for the Office of External Liaison. He was the first Consumer Affairs Specialist hired by SAMHSA. Throughout his work, Mr. del Vecchio has been a leader, pushing the envelope on a wide range of consumer issues, including consumer participation and education, issues of discrimination and prejudice, wellness, recovery, trauma, and access to treatment.

NIH-Wide Updates

NIH Common Fund Programs and Initiatives

The NIH Common Fund encourages collaboration and supports a series of exceptionally high impact, trans-NIH programs. These programs are supported by the Common Fund, and managed by the NIH Office of the Director in partnership with the various NIH Institutes, Centers and Offices. The following are updates on some of the projects co-led by NIMH:

  • The Genotype-Tissue Expression Project (NIMH Program Leads: Sue Koester, Ph.D., Roger Little, Ph.D.)
    The Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project aims to provide to the scientific community a resource with which to study human gene expression and regulation and its relationship to genetic variation. The goal of this initiative is to understand how genetic variation may control gene expression across organs, tissues, and individuals. The program has met its goals for number of donors, tissue quality and ability to identify eQTLs (gene expression quantitative trait loci) and has been approved for scale up to analyze multiple tissues from up to 800 donors. To date, over 173 post-mortem donors have entered the program (total goal for the pilot period is 180); collection of tissue from surgery donors is underway. More than 40,000 tissue aliquots have been collected. A manuscript describing the program is in press at a major scientific journal and the first wave of GTEx data has been made available at the database of Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP) through the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  • Molecular Libraries Program (NIMH Program Leads: Linda Brady, Ph.D., Ingrid Li, Ph.D.)
    The Common Fund’s Molecular Libraries and Imaging program (MLP) offers biomedical researchers access to the large-scale screening capacity necessary to identify small molecules that can be optimized as chemical probes to study the function of genes, cells and biochemical pathways in health and disease. These chemical probes may also be used to validate new drug targets, which could then move into the drug-development pipeline. The MLP Production Centers Network (MLPCN) has discovered more than 260 new chemical probes on distinct targets that have been peer reviewed and made available to biomedical researchers through the MLP, the Network labs’ websites, and the NCBI Bookshelf, as well as through commercial vendors. A large number of academic labs and institutions have sent their requests to MLPCN centers. As of August 2012, the key achievements and outcomes from the MLP include: 1) deposited a large amount of screening data in PubChem Bioassay; 2) provided probes, often “best in class” or “first in class” tool compounds to advance basic and translational science; 3) dedicated to share MLP centers’ achievements via major publications in Nature, Science, Cell, Chemical Biology and PNAS, among others; and 4) developed the “Assay Guidance Manual” (AGM), an e-book published on May 1, 2012 on the NCBI Bookshelf as a new MLP deliverable to the research community at large. Originally written as a guide for therapeutic project teams within a major pharmaceutical company, the AGM has been adapted to provide guidelines for scientists in academic, non-profit, government and industrial research laboratories to develop assay formats compatible with High-Throughput Screening and Structure Activity Relationship measurements of new and known molecular entities. Tools such as the AGM disseminate best practices from experts in the fields of chemical probe and drug discovery to the biomedical research community.
  • Human Microbiome Project (NIMH Program Lead Roger Little, Ph.D.)
    The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) aims to characterize the microbial communities found at several different sites on the human body, including nasal passages, oral cavities, skin, gastrointestinal tract and urogenital tract, and to analyze the role of these microbes in human health and disease. In June 2012 the HMP issued its initial findings in 15 publications, including 2 in Nature and 12 in PloS. Bacteria outnumber human cells by up to 10:1. These findings have tremendous implications for human health and disease and provide a reference data set.
  • Single Cell Analysis (NIMH Program Leads: Andrea Beckel-Mitchener, Ph.D., David Panchision, Ph.D.)
    NIMH is working with the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to coordinate a new Common Fund dedicated to single cell analysis. Recent research reveals that significant variability exists among individual cells within a population, and these differences can have important consequences for the health and function of the entire tissue. Experimental approaches that only examine population-level characteristics can obscure crucial differences. New approaches to single cell analysis are needed to uncover fundamental biological principles and ultimately improve disease detection and our understanding of disease progression, and lead to novel treatments. This Single Cell Analysis program supports the development of innovative tools and analytical approaches and aims to accelerate the translation and uptake of single cell technology from the bench to the clinic. The Common Fund held an annual Single Cell Analysis workshop in April 2012 to discuss with the scientific community the latest technological advances and transformative discoveries. The working group recommends funding projects that will define and examine heterogeneity across a range of cell types to include cardiomyocytes, multiple neuronal subtypes, glia, syncytiotrophoblasts (placenta) and cells of the olfactory system. In addition, the Program anticipates supporting innovative technology for the measurement of biochemical and physical endpoints; the development of platforms to increase analytical throughput; pioneering high-resolution morphological analyses; and single cell biosensors. The Program is interested in investing in additional projects that will enhance basic science capabilities, as well as in clinical research and practice.
  • Science of Behavior Change (NIMH Program Leads: Shelli Avenevoli, Ph.D., Bettina Osborn, Ph.D.)
    The NIH Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) program seeks to promote basic research on the initiation, personalization and maintenance of behavior change. By integrating work across disciplines, this effort is intended to lead to an improved understanding of the underlying principles of behavior change. The second Annual Meeting of the SOBC Investigators took place on June 20-12, 2012, and a future meeting on use-inspired intervention research is planned for October 2012. The October meeting will focus on frontiers in investigating change mechanisms across the stages of treatment development.
  • Metabolomics Initiative (NIMH Program Lead: Laurie Nadler, Ph.D.)
    Metabolomics is the study of low molecular weight molecules or metabolites found within cells and biological systems. The metabolome is a measure of the output of biological pathways and, as such, is often considered more representative of the functional state of a cell than other ‘omics measures such as genomics or proteomics. In addition, metabolites are conserved across various animal species, facilitating the extrapolation of research findings in laboratory animals to humans. Despite early promise, challenges remain before the full potential of metabolomics can be realized. Existing metabolomics facilities are at capacity, with relatively few scientists who possess in-depth expertise in metabolomics, and there remains a dearth of training opportunities to gain that expertise. To address these challenges, the Common Fund’s Increasing Metabolomics Research Capacity program is developing the following program components:
    Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Cores (U24)
    This initiative will allow institutions to expand and improve their capacity to conduct comprehensive metabolomics studies by adding and improving instrumentation, expanding faculty expertise, and developing new training programs to meet the need for expertise.

    Training in Metabolomics (K01)
    This initiative will support early and mid-career development awards with an emphasis on encouraging collaborations between basic and clinical investigators.

    Metabolomics Technology Development (R01)
    This initiative will address current limitations in metabolomics technologies so they can be easily adapted by other laboratories. Areas addressed may include, but are not limited to: increasing the number, quantitative accuracy, specificity, and throughput of molecular identification; increasing the identification of specific classes of metabolites including lipids and non-polar molecules; increasing the ability to measure more unique chemical entities; and decreasing sample volume, costs, and time to make accurate metabolomics measurements.

    Metabolomics Reference Standards Synthesis
    This contract will increase the repertoire of chemically identifiable metabolites through the synthesis of reliable metabolic standards. Data generated from these standards can be deposited into existing databases to expand the identities of the metabolite repertoire and serve as a resource for the entire metabolomics community. Data sharing and international collaboration will also be important aspects of this program.

NIH Neuroscience Blueprint Initiatives

The Neuroscience Blueprint is a framework to enhance cooperative activities among 15 NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices that support research on the nervous system. The Blueprint aims to develop research tools, resources, and training and to make them available to the neuroscience community.

  • Grand Challenge on New Drugs for Diseases and Disorders of the Nervous System
    A pipeline has been set up to move candidate drugs for nervous system disorders through preclinical development into early clinical trials. Successful applicants to the program receive funding to conduct biological testing in their laboratories and unprecedented access to a full range of industry-style drug development services and expertise. The investigators will retain the intellectual property for compounds they develop through this program. Seven applications were funded in the first round, with two additional projects in the second round. The second round of applications resulted in new grant awards in the areas of narcolepsy, familial dysautonomia and mild cognitive impairment; a condition that precedes Alzheimer’s disease. In the most recent round two new applications are funded in the areas of narcolepsy and Parkinson’s disease. The Request for Applications was re-issued (RFA-NS-13-003), with a receipt date of October 8, 2012.

NIH Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences Opportunity Network (OppNet)

OppNet is a trans-NIH initiative that seeks to strengthen basic behavioral and social science research across NIH. All NIH ICs collectively fund and manage OppNet. In FY 2012, OppNet released three RFAs with topics of interest to NIMH: “Sleep and Social Environment,” “Mechanistic Pathways Linking Psychosocial Stress and Behavior” and “Basic Research on Decision Making.” The OppNet Decision Making RFA was developed by an NIMH-led team; three of the top scoring grants will be administered through NIMH’s Executive Functions Program.

Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI)

NIH announced the appointment of David Murray, Ph.D. as Associate Director for Disease Prevention and Director of the Office of Disease Prevention in July 2012. As Professor and Chair of the Division of Epidemiology in the Ohio State University’s College of Public Health, Dr. Murray has taught courses on writing NIH research grants and has worked on more than 40 NIH-funded grants and contracts, including many multicenter trials. Much of Dr. Murray’s research has focused on the design and analysis of group-randomized trials and evaluating the effectiveness of public health intervention initiatives. He’s a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), has authored more than 230 articles in peer-reviewed journals and has served on the editorial board for Preventive Medicine, as well as serving as first chair of the Community-Level Health Promotion study section at NIH.

NIMH Updates

Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development (DATR)

DATR has formed a new program, the Experimental Medicine Program, focused on early phase clinical trials and evaluation of potential biomarkers. The new program consolidates programs from across DATR within the Clinical Neuroscience Research Branch to concentrate efforts on clinical studies that assess mechanisms of action and target engagement of novel and repurposed interventions.

Board of Scientific Counselors (BSC)

The Board of Scientific Counselors, which is the advisory group that provides scientific oversight for the NIMH IRP, welcomed five new members: Joseph T. Coyle, M.D., the Eben S. Draper Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital; Beatriz Luna, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry , School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh; Peter R. MacLeish, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Neuroscience Institute, School of Medicine at Morehouse University; Matthew State, M.D., Ph.D., the Donald J. Cohen Professor in the Child Study Center , Professor of Genetics and of Psychiatry, Co-Director, Yale Program on Neurogenetics, and Deputy Chairman for Research, Department of Psychiatry at Yale University; and, Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D., McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair of Radiology, Director, Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, and Professor, Departments of Radiology, Neurosciences, and Medicine at University of Minnesota. Their first official BSC review will be the November 2012 meeting.

Recent NIH and NIMH Meetings of Interest

A Grand Opportunity: Developing a Resource for Genetic Epidemiology Research in Adult Health and Aging

This symposium held on June 4, 2012 focused on a project funded through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, jointly sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, NIMH and the NIH Director’s Office that is called “The Kaiser Permanente/University of California, San Francisco Resource for Genetic Epidemiology Research in Adult Health and Aging.” The project includes one of the largest US genome-wide association studies to date, combining genetic data, measures of telomere length and longitudinal environmental and health information on 100,000+ participants in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California HMO. The cohort is highly diverse in ethnicity, including 25 percent minority representation, with substantial numbers of individuals with African, West Asian, South Asian, East Asian, Pacific Island, and Native American ancestry. The purpose of the symposium was to introduce the resource to NIH staff and provide a progress report on genotyping, initial findings, data sharing and future plans. The data will be made available to the research community, creating a new platform for studying genetic and environmental influences on health, with enormous potential for accelerating the pace of medical research to identify better strategies for prevention, detection and treatment of disease, and health care delivery.

The Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort (PNC): Integrating Diverse Datasets to Understand Development

The workshop held on June 20, 2012, focused on Neurodevelopmental Genomics: Trajectories of Complex Phenotypes, a project funded through ARRA and sponsored by NIMH. The project aims to establish multi-dimensional measures to dissect complex phenotypes and aggregate large samples, phenotypes, and electronic medical records, in order to integrate data with genomics information in a cohort of 10,000 children ages 8-21. The workshop discussed results from a component study on brain structure and function associated with behavioral dimensions that indicate vulnerability to mental disorders. Preliminary data presented showed that when classified by age, young females exhibit more severe anxiety and depression symptoms than males, and emphasized the need to link substance use data for youth aged 1–21 years with depression, attention deficit, psychosis, and anxiety data. A major component of the workshop included a comprehensive discussion of a plan to make all data available as a resource to the community.

Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Workshop

The Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) working group conducted a workshop on June 24-26, 2012 at the Neuroscience Center in Rockville, MD. The workshop focused on the RDoC Arousal/Modulatory Systems domain, comprising such constructs as brain arousal systems, biological rhythms, sleep, and default mode networks. As in past workshops, the workshop comprised a series of breakout-group discussions to determine the appropriate circuit-based constructs to be listed in this domain; to create definitions for these constructs; and to nominate elements to be included for each construct at each of several Units of Analysis (genes, molecules/cells, circuits, behavioral measures, etc.). The RDoC working group will post the proceedings of the workshop to the NIMH RDoC web site.

NIMH Alliance for Research Progress (Alliance), Summer Meeting

NIMH convened the 17th meeting of the Alliance on July 13, 2012. The Alliance is a group of advocates from national voluntary organizations representing individuals with mental illness, as well as their family members and all those concerned about them. The bi-annual meetings allow the NIMH Director and staff to hear views and concerns about current Institute priorities directly from these representatives. In addition to Dr. Insel’s research update, there were presentations on “citizen science” and how advocacy groups can become part of the scientific process; the NIH Neurobiobank; the NIMH RDoC project; a new resource at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) called; amazing advances in brain imagery; and progress in induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) research. Invited speakers included Roger Little, Ph.D., Senior Advisor for Science Coordination, Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications (OSPPC), NIMH; Sharon Terry, President and CEO, the Genetic Alliance; Bruce Cuthbert, Ph.D., Director, Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development, NIMH; Debra Speert, Ph.D., Acting Director, Public Information and Outreach, SfN; Bruce Rosen, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Radiology, Harvard Medical School and Director, Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital; and David Panchision, Ph.D., Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science, NIMH. A summary of the meeting is available on the NIMH Alliance web page.

Outreach Partnership Program (OPP)

The NIMH Outreach Partnership Program issued a solicitation on July 31, 2012 for the selection of two Outreach Partners for California to serve counties in the Northern, Central, and Southern regions of the state. Outreach Partners are selected through a competitive review process involving NIMH and other Federal agency staff, as well as external experts in public education, health communications, disparities and community-based research. Proposals are due September 24. NIMH plans to conduct review calls in mid-October. Selection of Outreach Partners will be made by NIMH OPP staff based on reviewers’ scores and comments. The new Outreach Partners will begin their contract term of 12 months with the potential for 2 option years in January 2013.

Finding the Way Forward in Tourette Syndrome Genetics

This workshop held on July 31, 2012 was jointly sponsored by NIMH and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke with the goal to review progress in current NIH-supported projects in Tourette Syndrome (TS) genetics and to develop a strategic plan for accelerating gene discovery and therapeutics progress in this important disorder. Participants included the two groups currently working on TS genetics and senior scientists from outside the field of TS genetics. Main recommendations by the group was to focus on “low hanging fruit” by leveraging genomic analyses of existing samples before making large new investments and to ensure that all groups make the samples and data available as a resource to the scientific community. The scientific co-chairs of the meeting are also in the process of developing a white paper for a strategic plan for TS genetics.

Domestic and International Adoption: Strategies to Improve Behavioral Health Outcomes for Youth and Their Families

On August 29-30, 2012 staff from the NIMH partnered with representatives from other NIH Institutes, SAMHSA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to plan and coordinate a meeting focused on the behavioral health needs of adopted youth. Researchers, practitioners, policymakers, as well as family and youth leaders were brought together in an interdisciplinary forum to discuss several key areas, including: the convergence/divergence of experience of internationally and domestically adopted youth with respect to behavioral health concerns; outcomes and trajectories for adopted youth; interventions and services available to address behavioral health needs and/or gaps in meeting the needs of this population; and the challenges and opportunities moving forward.

Grantee Awards

  • David H. Barlow, Ph.D., a Professor at Boston University was recently awarded the Association for Psychological Science (APS) 2012 James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award. The award was presented at the APS 24th Annual Convention, on May 25th, in Chicago, Illinois. The annual James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award honors individuals for their lifetime of significant intellectual achievements in applied psychological research and their impact on a critical problem in society at large. Dr. Barlow has a decades-long career focused on the phenomenology, etiology, and treatment of anxiety disorders. His currently funded projects focus on evaluating the efficacy of a unified, trans-diagnostic treatment for anxiety disorders, and strategies for dissemination of evidence-based treatment protocols through development of therapist training and other resources.
  • Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University received the 2012 A. E. Bennett Research Award from the Society for Biological Psychiatry. Dr. Gordon is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist who combines laboratory-based examination of mouse models of human psychiatric illness with clinical practice. His studies of anxiety in serotonin 1A receptor-deficient mice are supported by NIMH grant.
  • Ann Graybiel, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was named one of three winners of the 2012 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience. She is recognized for her work in identifying the brain circuitry underlying habitual behaviors and helping to advance the understanding of how habits may be formed or broken and how these processes are affected by disorders of movement or repetitive behaviors. Dr. Graybiel has received NIMH funding since 1998 and also served as a member of the NAMHC in the late 1990s. The Kavli Prize has been awarded biennially since 2008 to recognize significant research contributions in astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, in partnership with the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and the U.S.-based Kavli Foundation.
  • Greg Hajcak, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology at Stony Brook University received the award for Distinguished Early Career Contribution to Psychophysiology from the Society for Psychophysiological Research. Dr. Hajcak recently received his first R01 grant from NIMH. His research focuses on discovering the neurophysiological mechanisms of mood and anxiety disorders across the lifespan.
  • Amy M. Kilbourne, Ph.D., M.P.H. was honored by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), with its prestigious Klerman Young Investigator Award on May 6, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The DBSA is the nation’s largest, patient-run organization focusing on depression and bipolar disorder. Named after Gerald L. Klerman, M.D., a pivotal figure in psychiatry, this award is one of the highest honors that DBSA extends to members of the scientific community. Presented annually, the award recognizes researchers whose work contributes to understanding the causes, diagnosis and treatment of depression and bipolar disorder. Dr. Kilbourne’s research focuses on improving medical and psychiatric outcomes for persons with mood disorders through integrated care models.
  • Jason P. Mitchell, Ph.D., John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University received the National Academy of Sciences Troland Research Award in 2012, with presentation scheduled for 2013. The award was given for Dr. Mitchell’s “insightful use of neuroimaging and behavioral methods to enrich our understanding of how people infer the thoughts, feelings and opinions of others.” Dr. Mitchell’s work is funded by NIMH.
  • Alexander Neumeister, M.D., faculty member in the departments of Psychiatry and Radiology and the Director of the Molecular Imaging Program for Mood and Anxiety Disorders, New York University Langone Medical Center was awarded the Robert S. Laufer, PhD, Memorial Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement for Outstanding Scientific Achievement from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies in August 2012.
  • William E. Pelham, Ph.D. , Professor and Director of the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University was awarded the Society for Science of Clinical Psychology (SSCP) Distinguished Scientist Award, at the APS 24th Annual Convention, held May 25th, in Chicago, Illinois. The annual SSCP award goes to an individual who has made extremely important career contributions to the science of clinical psychology. Dr. Pelham’s research career and record of NIH funding spans decades. He was a principal investigator in the NIMH-funded Multimodal Treatment of ADHD multi-site study. Dr. Pelham has been a leading researcher in the field of psychosocial treatments for ADHD in childhood and adolescence; his recent projects have involved applying innovative research designs and therapeutic strategies for combining and sequencing behavioral and pharmacological treatments.
  • Elizabeth Phelps, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at New York University was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in July 2012. Dr. Phelps investigates the neurobiological bases of emotional memory, including exciting recent work on the reconsolidation of fear memories. Her work in this area has been supported by NIMH.

NIMH Awards and Honors

  • A group of NIMH staff was recognized for exceptional work in developing the National Database for Autism Research with the 2012 NIH Director’s Award. The recipients are Frank Avenilla, Ph.D., Patrick Bender, Ph.D., Greg Farber, Ph.D., Michelle Freund, Ph.D., Stacia Friedman-Hill, Ph.D., Lisa Gilotty, Ph.D., Mike Huerta, Ph.D., Brian Koser, M.S., Gretchen Navidi, Svetlana Novikova, Ph.D., David Panchision, Ph.D., Judy Rumsey, Ph.D., Anne Sperling, Ph.D., Eric Stanton, Ann Wagner, Ph.D., and Timothy Wolfe.
  • James Blair, Ph.D., Chief of the Unit on Affective Cognitive Neuroscience with the NIMH IRP since 2002 was granted tenure in May 2012. His primary research focus has been on using novel experimental paradigms to understand the neural substrates underlying specific forms of conduct disorder. In the past few years Dr. Blair has made notable scientific contributions which have helped to define the nosology of this condition.
  • Pamela Collins, M.D., M.P.H., LeShawndra Price, Ph.D. and Phuong Kim Pham, Ph.D. were among the members of the NIH program team that received the 2012 NIH Director’s Award for collaborative partnership in the Fogarty International Center’s Brain Disorders in the Developing World initiative. NIMH participates in the program by co-funding innovative research and capacity-building research in low-and middle-income countries.
  • Bruce Cuthbert, Ph.D., received the 2012 NIH Director’s Award for outstanding leadership of the RDoC effort to develop new ways of classifying mental illness psychopathology and for his dedication to the NIMH mission.
  • Staff efforts on the NIH Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Network were recognized for the exemplary and speedy establishment of a robust virtual pharmaceutical company infrastructure and novel funding mechanism to execute drug development projects through to clinical testing. The recipients of this 2012 NIH Director’s Award are Jamie Driscoll, Roger Little, Ph.D., Enrique Michelotti, Ph.D., and Michele Pearson.
  • Jeymohan Joseph, Ph.D., was a recipient of the 2012 NIH Director’s Award for serving as a member of the Brain Disorders in the Developing World NIH Program Team. The team nominated by the Fogarty International Center was recognized for an exceedingly successful decade-long multi-IC partnership to address the major global impact of brain disorders across the lifespan.
  • Leslie Ungerleider, Ph.D., Chief, Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, and Mortimer Mishkin, Ph.D., Chief, Laboratory of Neuropsychology of the NIMH IRP, were both awarded the Grawemeyer Award for 2012. The Grawemeyer Awards are five annual prizes given in the fields of music, political science, psychology, education and religion. They were founded by H. Charles Grawemeyer to help make the world a better place.

NIMH Staff News


  • Susan Amara, Ph.D. has accepted NIMH’s offer to serve as NIMH’s Scientific Director. Dr. Amara is currently the Thomas Detre Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurobiology at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Co-director of the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego working with Geoff Rosenfeld and did a brief post-doctoral fellowship at Yale. Her work during these years identifying the neuropeptide CGRP and describing alternative RNA processing remains a classic discovery in molecular neuroendocrinology. Dr. Amara was recruited to the Section of Molecular Neurobiology at Yale in 1985, where she became a Howard Hughes (HHMI) investigator (1986-1991). With HHMI support, she shifted her career from peptides to monoamine and amino acid neurotransmitters, launching a pioneering program focused on the molecular structure of neurotransmitter transporters. Her early success in this new field led to international recognition and ultimately, in 1991, a move to the Vollum Institute at the Oregon Health & Science University, a privately funded institute supporting some of the most creative work in molecular and cellular neuroscience. At the Vollum, she was reappointed as an HHMI investigator until 2003, when she was recruited to University of Pittsburgh to lead their Department of Neurobiology and serve as the Detre Professor of Neurobiology. In addition to her recognition as an HHMI investigator (twice), Dr. Amara is a member of the National Academy of Science (2004), a fellow of the AAAS (2007), and recipient of the Julius Axelrod Award from ASPET (2006). She served as President of the Society for Neuroscience (2011). Her extraordinarily creative science and scientific leadership have been matched by a commitment to mentoring young scientists and a focus on diversity. Pending approval by NIH, Dr. Amara plans to arrive officially January 1, 2013.
  • Mildred Benson, J.D. who headed the NIMH Ethics team has left NIMH to lead the National Institute on Aging Ethics Team. Among her many accomplishments was her work helping design and implement web based systems streamlining mechanisms for reviewing and approving ethics related matters. Valued for her sage advice, and her ability to help our employees carry out activities that further the NIH mission, she will be missed.
  • Chelsea Booth, Ph.D., Presidential Management Fellow at SAMHSA, is currently completing a rotation in the Division of Services and Intervention Research at NIMH. Dr. Booth is an anthropologist who assisted SAMHSA in suicide prevention activities. She is currently assisting the Research Prioritization Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention in analyses of stakeholder survey responses and has provided key administrative support. Dr. Booth has also worked with the NIMH OSPPC’s Science Policy and Evaluation Branch. She also serves as a liaison between NIMH and SAMHSA, coordinating relevant interagency activities.
  • Liza Bundesen, Ph.D. has been appointed as Chief of the Science Policy and Evaluation Branch of OSPPC. Dr. Bundesen served in this role in an acting capacity over the past 3.5 years during a time of transition for OSPPC. After first joining OSPPC in 2004 as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy fellow, she continued her work as a health science policy analyst beginning in 2006, coordinating many of the Institute’s reporting activities to NIH, HHS, Congress, and the White House.
  • Jackie Chia, most recently a Budget Analyst from NIA, joined the Grants Management Branch in August as a Senior Grants Management Specialist.
  • Jacqueline Crawley, Ph.D., was a Senior Investigator and Chief of the Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience in the NIMH IRP for close to thirty years. In July of 2012, Dr. Crawley moved on to be the Robert E. Chason Chair in Translational Research at the M.I.N.D. Institute in the University Of California Davis School Of Medicine.
  • Ann Huston, M.P.A. is the new Deputy Executive Officer in the Office of Resource Management. Just prior to her arrival at NIMH, she served as the Deputy Executive Officer and Budget Officer at the Center for Scientific Review. Before that she was the Program/Budget Analyst for the Office of Cancer Centers at the National Cancer Institute. Ms. Huston also served for 13 years as Executive Director of the American Therapeutic Recreation Association located in Alexandria, Virginia. She also has previous government experience in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), having worked at several VA Medical Centers including Richmond, Virginia, Kansas City, Missouri and Palo Alto, California.
  • Sarah Joestl, M.P.H. departed the Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health in June 2012 to commence training in the Health Service Fellowship Program at the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention located in Hyattsville, Maryland.
  • Su Yeon Lee, Ph.D. [Contractor] joined the NIMH Office of Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health in July 2012 as a policy analyst. She has a concurrent appointment as an associate at the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
  • Alexei Morozov, Ph.D., was Chief of the Unit on Behavioral Genetics in the NIMH IRP for close to ten years. In August of 2012, Dr. Morozov moved on to be Assistant Professor in the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and of Biomedical Engineering and Science in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech.
  • Michael Sesma, Ph.D. has accepted a position as Chief of the Postdoctoral Training Branch in the Division of Training, Workforce Development and Diversity at the National Institute for General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). Dr. Sesma joined NIMH 10 years ago and has managed programs of career development, training and diversity, first in the NIMH Office of Special Populations and most recently in the Division of Developmental Translational Research. Dr. Sesma began his service to NIH in 1994 at NIGMS. He returned to NIGMS on August 27 to assume his new position.
  • Esther Sternberg, M.D., was a Senior Investigator and Chief of the Section on Neuroendocrine Immunology and Behavior in the NIMH IRP for over twenty years. In July of 2012, Dr. Sternberg became the Research Director at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson.