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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

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Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience Research Branch

Branch overview

This branch supports fundamental neuroscience research aimed at understanding the molecular and cellular processes that drive the structure and function of cells and circuits relevant to cognitive, affective, and social domains in both health and mental illness, and facilitates therapeutics development.

Programs of research within the branch encompass neuronal and glial signaling, synaptic plasticity, neuropharmacology, neuroendocrinology, and neuroimmunology. Within this context, the branch also supports studies investigating how high confidence genetic risk factors impact brain processes across biological scales.

Additional programs and services are aimed at development of translational biomarkers for mental illnesses in model systems and humans, and drug discovery spanning various modalities. Project scope ranging from identification and validation of novel therapeutic targets, assay development, ligand optimization, evaluation in model systems, through first-in-human studies.

Approaches may include in vitro and/or in vivo paradigms using vertebrate or invertebrate animal models, human subjects and human cell-based assays, as well as computational tools and models that integrate complex experimental datasets and provide testable predictions. The branch supports the use of research tools and reference data developed through the BRAIN initiative , such as BICCN  and the Armamentarium , and the Blueprint  to address basic scientific questions and facilitate drug discovery.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to align projects according to the NIMH Strategic Plan (see Strategies listed under Goals 1, 2 and 3, see also Funding Strategy), along with NIMH guidance on the use of model organisms for mental health-relevant research (NOT-MH-19-053 ), priorities in stress biology research (NOT-MH-18-058 ), 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  ).

Further details can be obtained by reviewing the descriptions of individual Programs. Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the appropriate NIMH Program Officer when developing their applications to determine the alignment of the proposed work with NIMH priorities.

Additional information

Branch Chief

Yael Mandelblat-Cerf, Ph.D.
6001 Executive Boulevard