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Leveraging ARRA Resources to Accelerate Research on Neurodevelopment

NAMHC Concept Clearance


Shelli Avenevoli, Ph.D.
Chief, Developmental Trajectories of Mental Disorders Branch
Division of Developmental Translational Research (DDTR)


This initiative aims to stimulate the broader research community to utilize NIMH resources funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to develop and evaluate hypotheses about the combined and interactive influences of genetics, brain maturation, neurocognitive function, and environment during development.


In 2009, NIMH funded several large ARRA Grand Opportunity program grants (i.e., RC2) on the topic of Neurodevelopmental Genomics: Trajectories of Complex Phenotypes. The goals of these grants were to phenotypically characterize and collect genomic and other biomarker and endophenotypic data from large, representative cohorts of children and adolescents, and to build resources of data and biomaterials for future studies. The RC2 awards provided only limited funding for analyses. By 2014, those resources will be ripe for mining to potentially address pressing questions about neurodevelopment and mental illness during childhood and adolescence. This proposed initiative is a strategic effort to disseminate the resources, stimulate the broader research community to use these resources, and accelerate research on neurodevelopment and trajectories of risk for serious mental illness. The initiative would support hypothesis-driven and data analytic applications; additional data collection is outside the scope of this initiative, though new assays of biospecimens may be considered.

Expected outcomes from this initiative could include neurodevelopmental maps of normative and atypical trajectories, knowledge about genetic contributions to functional neural connections, links between brain maturation and cognitive and affective function, brain correlates of sensitive periods, and genomic contributions to risk and resilience for mental disorders.

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