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Research Priorities for Strategic Objective 3

Updated: January 2019

Strive for Prevention and Cures

NIMH has adopted and encourages an experimental therapeutics approach to intervention development and testing. This approach focuses on interrogating putative intervention targets and mechanisms throughout all stages of intervention development and testing. Under this approach, interventions should not only serve as potential therapies or pre-emptive strategies, but also as probes to generate information about illness mechanisms, so that information from the study has scientific value, regardless of the trial outcome.

Across all areas of medicine, patients diagnosed with the same illness differ considerably with respect to the actual mechanisms of their particular form of the disease, requiring a precise approach to diagnosis and to treatment. Precision in mental health care means that patients will receive preventive and therapeutic interventions that are optimally matched to their individual characteristics and needs, across disease stages and, where appropriate, across diagnostic categories and across lifespan development. NIMH encourages applications for precision interventions that seek to: develop novel interventions via the translation of basic science into targeted interventions to address specific functional deficits; develop strategies for assigning and sequencing existing evidence-based interventions and more novel, deficit-specific, targeted intervention approaches; and, explore the effectiveness of evidence-based approaches in community practice settings.

Recognizing that most mental disorders have their origins well before adulthood and often before symptoms are evident, across these priority areas that follow, NIMH encourages the development and testing of preventive and therapeutic interventions that can be delivered in a developmentally informed manner (e.g., at known sensitive periods and at key transitions) as early in life as possible and early in the illness course, to prevent or forestall mental illnesses and associated dysfunction.  

Research priority areas are identified within each of the following three strategies:

3.1: Develop new treatments based on discoveries in genomics, neuroscience, and behavioral science
3.2: Develop ways to tailor existing and new interventions to optimize outcomes
3.3: Test interventions for effectiveness in community practice settings

These research topics are not intended to be exhaustive. Prior to submitting an application, investigators are encouraged to contact NIMH program staff to discuss proposed aims and relevance to these objectives. Please reference the relevant strategic objective and research priority in the project summary section of your application. Investigators are also encouraged to take advantage of existing NIMH and NIH resources where appropriate.