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and treatment of mental illnesses.

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Progress for Goal 1

Learn about the progress NIMH has made toward Goal 1 of the NIMH Strategic Plan for Research: Define the Brain Mechanisms Underlying Complex Behavior.


Illustration of an X chromosome cut open to expose a piece of the DNA strand.
Researchers Expand Understanding of Genetic Mechanisms Underlying Fragile X Syndrome

An NIMH-supported study of the 3D genome revealed widespread silencing of genes with important roles in brain function in fragile X syndrome and related disorders.

Spatial distribution of diverse cell types in the mouse brain. Here, MERFISH was used to measure 500 genes in the mouse brain to reveal the complex distribution of cell types throughout the brain. Courtesy of Yao/van Velthoven/Zeng, Allen Institute.
Scientists Unveil Complete Cell Map of a Whole Mammalian Brain

For the first time ever, an international team of researchers has created a complete cell atlas of a whole mammalian brain.

Illustration of abstract brain on blue background.
Scientists Unveil Detailed Cell Maps of the Human Brain and the Nonhuman Primate Brain

A group of international scientists have mapped the genetic, cellular, and structural makeup of the human brain and the nonhuman primate brain, allowing for a deeper knowledge of the cellular basis of brain function and dysfunction, helping pave the way for a new generation of precision therapeutics for people with mental disorders and other disorders of the brain.

Model showing glycine (teal) docking on the receptor GPR158. The dotted lines show contacts glycine molecule forms with GPR158. Courtesy of the Martemyanov lab, The Herbert Wertheim UF Scripps Institute for Biomedical Innovation & Technology.
Researchers Solve the Puzzle of a Brain Receptor’s Activation

Researchers in a NIMH-supported study identified a new receptor for glycine that helps enhance communication between nerve cells in the brain and offers a potential new target for treating mental disorders.

Illustration of communication between neurons.
Newly Discovered Brain Connection Affects Reward Behavior in Mice

NIMH-funded research sheds light on how negative early life experiences may impact how we act in response to rewards, which is often disrupted in people with mental illnesses.

Concept of neurons communicating with an explosion of activity between two neurons.
Researchers Find Order in the Language of the Brain

New research supported by NIMH used mathematical approaches to explain how neurons in the brain communicate over time to support information processing.

Multi-colored brain in space with a dotted background. Courtesy of the Gleeson Lab for Pediatric Brain Disease, University of California San Diego and Rady Children's Institute for Genomic Medicine.
Researchers Unlock Genetic Mutations Contributing to Disorders in the Brain

Researchers identified novel genes with mosaic mutations contributing to treatment-resistant pediatric epilepsy and pointing to specific disrupted pathways in cortical development.

Illustration of multiethnic group of people
NIMH Creates Publicly Accessible Resource With Data From Healthy Volunteers

The NIMH Healthy Research Volunteer Study aims to build a comprehensive, publicly accessible resource with a range of brain and behavioral data from healthy volunteers.

Close up of a T cell being infected by the HIV virus on its surface
T Cells Help HIV Enter and Persist in the Brain

A recent NIMH-supported study sheds light on the role of a unique set of T cells in trafficking HIV infection into the brain and mediating the virus’ persistence there.

DNA strand beside a side profile of a head with the brain illuminated, on an abstract digital background
Researchers Map the Genetic Landscape of Schizophrenia in the Brain

In a comprehensive postmortem genetic analysis of the caudate nucleus in the brain, NIMH-supported researchers identified many genes associated with schizophrenia risk, including a gene that regulates the flow of the chemical messenger dopamine.

A digital recreation of a DNA strand.
Rare Genetic Variation in 10 Genes Substantially Raise the Risk for Schizophrenia

In one of the largest genetic studies of its kind researchers funded by the National Institute of Mental Health identified variations in 10 genes that significantly raise the risk for schizophrenia—information that could help identify new treatment targets.

Illustration of neuronal connections.
NIH BRAIN Initiative Launches Projects to Develop Cell Atlases and Molecular Tools for Cell Access

The National Institutes of Health has launched two transformative projects supported by the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative: The BRAIN Initiative® Cell Atlas Network and the Armamentarium for Precision Brain Cell Access.

A drawing of parapinopsin, a photoswitchable GPCR that can be turned on using UV light and turned off using amber light. Credit: Copits, B. et al., (2021). A photoswitchable GPCR-based opsin for presynaptic inhibition. Neuron, 109(11), 1791–1809.e11.
Tool Uses Light to Inhibit Neural Activity in Mice

Researchers supported by NIH have developed a way to genetically insert a type of light receptor into neurons. The new technique enables the researchers to suppress the neuron’s activity using pulses of light.

3D rendering of a molecule
Autism and Congenital Heart Disease Share Underlying Molecular Network

A recent study of gene networks may hold some promising clues about shared mechanisms underlying autism spectrum disorder and congenital heart disease, two physiologically distinct disorders that often co-occur.

Illustration of neuronal connections.
NIH BRAIN Initiative Unveils Detailed Atlas of the Mammalian Primary Motor Cortex

The NIH Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative Cell Census Network (BICCN) has unveiled an atlas of cell types and an anatomical neuronal wiring diagram for the mammalian primary motor cortex, derived from detailed studies of mice, monkeys, and humans.

Image of brain and DNA strands
Genomic Data From More Than 41,000 People Shed New Light on Bipolar Disorder

In the largest genome-wide association study of bipolar disorder to date, researchers found about twice as many genetic locations associated with bipolar disorder as reported in previous studies. These and other findings help improve our understanding of the biological origins of bipolar disorder.

a teen girl sits with her elbows propped, resting her chin on her folded hands.
Eating Disorder Behaviors Alter Reward Response in the Brain

A new NIMH-supported study found that eating disorder behaviors alter the brain’s reward response process and food intake control circuitry, which can reinforce the behaviors.

Andrea Beckel-Mitchener, Ph.D.
NIMH’s Dr. Andrea Beckel-Mitchener Named Deputy Director of NIH BRAIN Initiative

Andrea Beckel-Mitchener, Ph.D., has been named deputy director of the trans-NIH Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

illustration of connected neurons
New Experiences Enhance Learning by Resetting Key Brain Circuit

A study of spatial learning in mice shows that exposure to new experiences dampens established representations in the brain’s hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, allowing the mice to learn new navigation strategies.

Illustration of DNA double helix
Gene Readouts Contribute To Distinctness of Mental Disorders

A new study conducted by researchers at NIMH suggests that differences in the expression of gene transcripts – readouts copied from DNA that help maintain and build our cells – may hold the key to understanding how mental disorders with shared genetic risk factors result in different patterns of onset, symptoms, course of illness, and treatment responses.

Image of brain neurons
NIH-funded Study Sheds Light on Abnormal Neural Function in Rare Genetic Disorder

A genetic study has identified neuronal abnormalities in the electrical activity of cortical cells derived from people with a rare genetic disorder called 22q11.2 deletion syndrome.

artistic illustration of a molecular structure
Genetic Variations Highlight the Importance of Metabolic Processes in Anorexia

The need to identify effective targets for intervention in anorexia nervosa is pressing, as patient outcomes are often poor. An NIMH-funded genome-wide association study suggests that metabolic processes may play an important role in the disorder, offering a promising new avenue for investigation.

blueprint style line drawing of human brain
Study Shows Highly Reproducible Sex Differences in Aspects of Human Brain Anatomy

A scientific analysis of more than 2,000 brain scans found evidence for highly reproducible sex differences in the volume of certain regions in the human brain.

Image showing HIV infection of CD4+ T cells in the mouse brain. Human T cells (magenta), human astrocytes (red), HIV (green), nuclei (Blue). Arrows identify uptake of HIV from astrocytes into T cells. Credit: Al-Harthi et al. (2020)
Brain Cells Can Harbor and Spread HIV Virus to the Body

Researchers funded by NIMH have found that astrocytes, a type of brain cell, can harbor HIV and then spread the virus to immune cells that traffic out of the brain and into other organs.

This image shows double-helix DNA strands.
Large-Scale Genetics Study Sheds Light on Developmental Origins of Autism

Researchers were able to identify different types of rare genetic variations associated with autism spectrum disorder by analyzing data shared via the NIMH-funded Autism Sequencing Consortium.