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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Molecular, Cellular, and Genomic Neuroscience Research Branch

Branch Overview

This Branch supports fundamental neuroscience research to define molecular and cellular processes impacting brain processes and functional effects across cells and circuits relevant to cognitive, affective, and social domains. Programs of research within the branch encompass neuronal and glial signaling, synaptic plasticity, neuropharmacology, neuroendocrinology, and neuroimmunology.

This branch also supports fundamental neuroscience research to define the developmental processes and genomic regulatory mechanisms that underlie neural organization, function and plasticity in the brain, particularly as they relate to cognitive, affective and social domains of brain function. Within this context, the branch supports basic functional genomic and developmental studies of genes and allelic variation that have been associated with mental illness risk at genome-wide significance and for which the fundamental biology of those genes is poorly understood. Programs in this branch also support the utilization of research tools and reference data developed through the BRAIN Initiative toward addressing these basic science questions. Approaches can include in vivo, in situ and in vitro paradigms using vertebrate or invertebrate model organisms and human cell-based assays.

Additional programs and services are aimed at drug discovery for mental illnesses, with project scope ranging from identification and validation of novel therapeutic targets, assay development, ligand optimization and evaluation in model systems, through first in human studies. Approaches may include in vitro, in situ, and/or in vivo paradigms using vertebrate or invertebrate model organisms.

The National Institute of Mental Health has developed a Strategic Plan which outlines important directions of NIMH support for research on mental disorders and the underlying basic science of brain and behavior. Strategic Plan Goals that are supported by this branch include:

The branch supports research aimed at developing an integrative understanding of basic brain-behavior processes that provide the foundation for understanding behavior and mental illness including studies that contribute basic knowledge of the cellular and molecular processes driving the structure and function of neural circuits, with a focus on those most relevant to mental illnesses.

Further details can be obtained by reviewing the descriptions of individual programs. Applicants are strongly encouraged to align projects according to the NIMH Strategic Plan (see Funding Strategy), along with NIMH guidance on the use of model organisms for mental health-relevant research (biological investigations of genes associated with disease risk (NOT-MH-18-035), and enhancing the reliability of NIMH-supported research through rigorous study design and reporting (NOT-MH-14-004).

Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the appropriate NIMH Program Officer to determine how well their proposals align with NIMH priorities.

Acting Branch Chief

Susan E. Koester, Ph.D.
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 7205/MSC 9645