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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

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Neuroscience of Mental Disorders and Aging Program


This program supports studies of neurobiological factors and pathways that may influence the risk, presentation, course, and outcome of mental disorders in late life or in relation to the aging process. There is particular interest in supporting research consistent with NIMH’s emphasis on taking a dimensional and trans-diagnostic approach in studies of psychopathology, as articulated in the Institute’s Research Domains Criteria (RDoC) project. Relevant research typically uses the theories and tools of basic and translational neuroscience and related biological sciences to investigate the pathophysiology of mental disorders or dimensions of psychopathology, but also may involve other, more phenotypically oriented methods so as to examine the key variables across multiple levels of analysis. The integration of measures drawn from theories and research on the biological aging process so as to study the interplay of aging with mechanisms of psychopathology is highly encouraged. The studies supported may include middle-aged or younger patients as well as older adults when there is a major focus on questions pertaining to the aging process, such as in research on the trajectories of mental disorders with aging.

Areas of Emphasis

  • Studies to understand how aging interacts with neurobiological mechanisms of psychopathology to mediate psychiatric symptom expression in older adults.
  • Studies to identify aging-related processes that may damage or protect brain structures involved in mental disorders or, conversely, that may be accelerated as a consequence of mental disorders.
  • Studies that identify key neurobiological aspects that shape and define the trajectories of mental disorders across the life course and extending into old age. 
  • Research examining the interaction of genetic and environmental factors that may increase risk or be protective for the development of late-life mental disorders.


Laura Rowland, Ph.D.
Program Chief
6001 Executive Blvd, Room 7113