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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

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The National Institute of Mental Health archives materials that are over 4 years old and no longer being updated. The content on this page is provided for historical reference purposes only and may not reflect current knowledge or information.

Discover NIMH: Delivering Hope Through Research



>> JOSH GORDON: NIMH's mission is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure. But some people may not know that many of the most important medical advance is traced back to basic research. Aimed simply at understanding the brain.

>> LINDA BRADY: Basic science, both neuroscience and behavioral science, are helping to understand about the genes, cells, molecules and circuits, and the behaviors that go awry in serious mental illnesses.

>> SUSAN KOESTER: At NIMH, we're currently funding hundreds of projects. They're all aimed at understanding something fundamental about how the brain works and how it develops. That when we put it all together, will enable development of new treatments and cures, ultimately, giving patients hope for a better future.

>> MARIO PENZO: There's a couple of novel technologies that we are incorporating in our research. For example, we now, in the field of neuroscience, have the ability of monitor of the activity of individual neurons in real time. In addition, we're actually able to also modulate the activity of those neurons using a technology called "Optogenetics," and this is a tremendous technique that has created a revolution in neuroscience and has given us access to address questions that we previously didn't think we were able to address.

>> SUSAN KOESTER: The thalamus is a small structure in the center of your brain that we've known for a long time, since I was a graduate student, that it's involved in relaying information from your eyes, from your ears to your cerebral cortex, the wrinkly part on the outside of your brain. But it turns out, from new findings, that's it's serving the role like an orchestra conductor in terms of keeping the signals in-tune and in-time with each other.

>> LINDA BRADY: One of the projects that we're supporting is to find biological markers which are clinically meaningful measures in people that can help us understand Autism Spectrum Disorder. We're looking at brain signatures. We're also looking at eye-tracking measures that reflect social interactions between individuals. And by seeing how these markers separate individuals into sub-groups, we can more easily find out what possible interventions will be effective.

>> SAMAR HATTAR: The most surprising thing that I found about my research is how effective light at influencing us. Not only for our ability to see images but also, for effect our measured behaviors including sleep, our biological clock. Our mood, our learning and memory. We need light for some reason to improve our behavior and our functions. And we're trying to understand why do we need this light information to reach our brain.

>> JOSH GORDON: Sometimes, findings from basic research translate quickly into practical applications. But even advances that don't immediately lead to new treatments, provide the knowledge on which future treatments will be based. The path to prevention, diagnosis and treatment for mental disorders starts with basic science.