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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Celebrating 75 Years! Learn More >>

Social and Affective Neuroscience Program


This program supports basic investigations of circuit-level neurobiological mechanisms underlying affect, social behavior, and social cognition in healthy humans and animals. Topics of interest include emotions, mood, stress and resilience, affiliative and agonistic behaviors, social communication and social cognition, as well as investigations into their development and regulation. The program supports work related to both the structure and function of neural circuits underlying these domains of function. This program seeks research that proposes causal experimental designs, utilizes cutting edge neurobiological and behavioral approaches, and combines multiple levels of analysis. This program supports research using a broad range of experimental systems: investigators must justify their choice of species within the framework of mental-health relevant emotional and social behavior and demonstrate that the experimental paradigms used are appropriate to the species studied. Social and/or emotional manipulations and outcome measures should reflect underlying questions about the neural circuit under study.

Areas of Emphasis

  • Neural circuitry and mechanisms mediating the interaction between cognition and emotion.
  • Spatio-temporal interactions across brain networks that contribute to emotional or social behaviors
  • Investigations of the “social brain” across species
  • Neural circuits integrating multiple modalities of social communication
  • Studies of factors that mediate and moderate neurobiological and behavioral responses to social and non-social stressors
  • Paradigms and analyses that consider both behavioral and neurobiological temporal dynamics
  • Neurodevelopmental trajectories involved in processing or producing emotional and/or social cues
  • Disruptions in neurodevelopment or dysfunctions in neurobiological systems that contribute to alterations in the emotional and/or social domain
  • Sex differences in neural circuits underlying social and/or emotional behaviors
  • Use of novel, quantitative methods to measure emotional or social behavior in real world settings 
  • Use of real-time, simultaneous neurophysiological measures in dyads
  • Development or use of psychometrically sound behavioral assessment methods relevant to RDoC domains and constructs (PDF)

Areas of Lower Priority

  • Projects that focus on primary sensory percepts, sexual behaviors, or prejudice, stereotyping, in-group/out-group relationships
  • Projects based upon single region-based or static conceptual models of brain function and behavior
  • Projects designed to describe or correlate behavior with only peripheral stress markers.
  • Projects that apply a single level of analysis
  • Projects that investigate candidate genes lacking genome-wide association

Applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss their proposals with the Institute contact listed below prior to the submission of their application to ascertain that their proposed work is aligned with NIMH funding priorities.

Applications should adhere to published recommendations detailed in a notice in the NIH Guide (NOT-14-004 ) and summarized in Enhancing the Reliability of NIMH-Supported Research through Rigorous Study Design and Reporting on the NIMH website.


Andrew Breeden, Ph.D.
Program Chief
6001 Executive Boulevard