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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.

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.

NIMH Strategic Plan logo
New NIMH Strategic Plan Paves the Way for Advances in Mental Health Research

The Strategic Plan for Research advances the Institute’s mission and helps guide future mental health research efforts.

This is an image of neuronal receptors.
Fast-Fail Trial Shows New Approach to Identifying Brain Targets for Clinical Treatments

An innovative NIMH-funded trial shows that a receptor involved in the brain’s reward system may be a viable target for treating anhedonia (or lack of pleasure), a key symptom of several mood and anxiety disorders.

cell-by-cell list of hippocampal activity in rat brain
Reading the Brain’s Map: Coordinated Brain Activation Supports Spatial Learning and Decision-Making

NIH-supported study finds that spatial “replay” in neurons may help rats learn how to navigate toward goals.

illustration of a human brain with magnifying glass held up to show detailed view of forebrain
New BRAIN Initiative Awards Accelerate Neuroscience Discoveries

The NIH has announced its continued support for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative by funding more than 180 new BRAIN Initiative awards, bringing the total 2019 budget for the program to more than $424 million.

Immunofluorescent stained neurons, astrocytes, and cell nuclei in hippocampal CA3 region of brain
NIH BRAIN Initiative Tool May Transform How Scientists Study Brain Structure and Function

Researchers have developed a high-tech support system that can keep a large mammalian brain from rapidly decomposing in the hours after death, enabling study of certain molecular and cellular functions.

Images of dendritic spine remodeling. Images taken at baseline, after exposure to a stressor (Chronic CORT), and after a single dose of ketamine. Credit: Reprinted with permission from Conor Liston, Science (2019)
Ketamine Reverses Neural Changes Underlying Depression-Related Behaviors in Mice

Researchers have identified ketamine-induced brain-related changes that are responsible for maintaining the remission of behaviors related to depression in mice — findings that may help researchers develop interventions that promote lasting remission of depression in humans.

An illustration of molecules discovered using the mega docking library.
Mega Docking Library Poised to Speed Drug Discovery

Researchers have launched an ultra-large virtual docking library expected to grow to more than 1 billion molecules by next year. It will expand by 1000-fold the number of such “make-on-demand” compounds readily available to scientists for chemical biology and drug discovery.

fear lab trainees with poster at SFN 2018
Puerto Rico’s “Fear Lab” Mentors Neuroscience Rigor amid Diversity

A lineage of young neuroscientists from diverse backgrounds trace their scientific roots to a “fear lab” in Puerto Rico that the National Institutes of Health has been supporting for two decades.

A heatmap shows the amount of time a mouse spent in locations of an open field chamber during optogenetic stimulation of the cerebellar input to the VTA.
New Findings Reveal Surprising Role of the Cerebellum in Reward and Social Behaviors

A new study in rodents has demonstrated, for the first time, that the brain’s cerebellum plays a role in controlling reward and social preference behavior—findings that shed light on the brain circuits critical to the affective and social dysfunction seen across multiple psychiatric disorders.

brain scan showing molecular structure
2,000 Human Brains Yield Clues to How Genes Raise Risk for Mental Illnesses

PsychENCODE researchers are discovering the biological mechanisms by which mental illness risk genes work in the human brain.

video screenshot of Frances Johnson, NIMH trainee
Diversity Training Programs Nurture Research Career

A trainee tells her story of how NIMH/NIH training programs for members of underrepresented groups have nurtured her scientific career.

Image showing pathways from the ipRGCs in the retina to the SCN and the PHb in the brain.
The Pathways Through which Light Affects Learning and Mood

In a new study, researchers have traced the brain pathways responsible for the effects of light on learning and mood. The findings revealed that these effects are brought about by two different and distinct pathways from the retina into the brain.

Mouse preoptic region cell clusters
NIH BRAIN Initiative Debuts Cell Census of Mouse Motor Cortex – for Starters

NIH BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network (BICCN) has debuted its first data release, which focuses on motor cortex. In a related development, researchers have discovered cellular secrets of key social behaviors – mating, parenting, and aggression – in mouse hypothalamus.

An overlay image of the PVT showing the terminals from the locus coeruleus (red) and the neurons that project to the nucleus accumbens (green).
Understanding Critical Components of the Brain’s Stress Circuitry

A new study has revealed more about the organization and function of a brain structure—the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus—that may serve a key role in linking stress detection to the development of adaptive behaviors.

screenshot from Big Brain Perks & Costs video
Bigger Human Brain Prioritizes Thinking Hub – at a Cost

Scientists have discovered that bigger human brains are organized differently than smaller ones.

Risperidone docked in D2 receptor
Molecular Secrets Revealed: Antipsychotic Docked in its Receptor

Scientists have deciphered the molecular structure of a widely-prescribed antipsychotic docked in its key human brain receptor. The discovery may hold clues to designing better treatments for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.

Arc gene can package its genetic material in a virus-like shell for delivery to nearby cells
Memory Gene Goes Viral

A gene crucial for learning can send its genetic material from one neuron to another by employing a strategy commonly used by viruses.

zebrafish brain
Brain’s Alertness Circuitry Conserved Through Evolution

Using a molecular method likely to become widely adopted by the field, researchers have discovered brain circuitry essential for alertness – and for brain states more generally.

Huang PV Basket Cell
NIH BRAIN Initiative Launches Cell Census

The NIH today launched a major effort to discover and catalog the brain’s “parts list.”

multicolored brain scan image
NIH BRAIN Initiative Builds on Early Advances

NIH has announced funding for 110 new awards totaling $169 million for the BRAIN Initiative.

gene illustration
NIH Completes Atlas of Human DNA Differences that Influence Gene Expression

NIH researchers have completed an atlas documenting how DNA influence human gene expression.

female medical professional and patient
NIMH Releases Strategic Research Priorities Update

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recently released its second annual update of the Strategic Research Priorities.

depression-linked gene expression in males, females
Depression’s “Transcriptional Signatures” Differ in Men vs. Women

Brain gene expression associated with depression differed markedly between men and women. Such divergent “transcriptional signatures” may signal divergent underlying illness processes requiring sex-specific treatments.

Epigenomic signatures of neuron subtypes
Breakthrough Method Yields Trove of Neuron Subtypes, Gene Regulators

Scientists have discovered a trove of neuronal subtypes by identifying their unique epigenomic signatures.

Neanderthal gene-influenced brain visual system areas
Our Brains Harbor “Residual Echo” of Neanderthal Genes

Researchers have produced the first direct evidence that parts of our brains implicated in mental disorders may be shaped by a “residual echo” from our ancient past. The more a person’s genome carries genetic vestiges of Neanderthals, the more certain parts of his or her brain and skull resemble those of humans’ evolutionary cousins that went extinct 40,000 years ago.

NIMH Research Domain Criteria
Webinar: RDoC - Fear & Anxiety: From Mechanisms to Implementation

This November 2016 RDoC webinar highlights the role of fear and anxiety in disorders such as phobias and depression.

running horse replayed with Living Cells' DNA
Scientists Replay Movie Encoded in DNA

For the first time, a primitive movie has been encoded in – and then played back from – DNA in living cells. It’s a major step toward a “molecular recorder” that may someday reveal secrets of the developing brain.

Nanopipette sampling a neuron without disturbing function
NIH Names Winners of “Follow that Cell” Phase 2 Competition

Two biological engineering researchers are winners in Phase 2 of NIH’s Follow that Cell Challenge. The winners will share $400,000 in prizes awarded for development of new tools and methods for predicting the behavior and function of a single cell in complex tissue over time – and how that reflects the health of the tissue.

2 adult voles with 5 baby voles
Brain Circuit Tweak Wins Her Affection (if she’s a vole)

For the first time, neuroscientists have boosted a female rodent’s partnering with a male by stimulating connectivity of a brain reward circuit. Understanding the circuitry of such affiliative behaviors may lead to improved treatments for social impairment in severe mental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder.

Diffusion image shows long distance connections in brain of study participant.
Connections Strengthen Within Specialized Networks as Brain’s Executive Function Matures

As we grow up, our brain’s specialized networks become more structurally segregated, contributing to improved executive functioning. These densely interconnected “modules” process information for key functions that underlie development of mental control and self-regulation.

3-D analysis of intact mouse hippocampus
NIMH Grantee Wins One of Science’s Most Coveted Prizes

NIMH grantee Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., of Stanford University, has been awarded one of science’s most generous prizes. A German foundation presented the inventor of technologies that are transforming neuroscience with its 4 million euros Fresenius Prize.

X-ray image of a blue brain glowing against a black background
NIMH to Host Multimodal Brain Stimulation Speaker Series

Beginning May 31, 2017, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) will launch a speaker series intended to bring together leaders in the field conducting research using non-invasive brain stimulation and functional imaging including EEG, fMRI, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Thalamus neuron
Brain “Relay” Also Key to Holding Thoughts in Mind

Long overlooked as a mere “relay,” an egg-like structure in the middle of the brain also turns out to play a pivotal role in tuning-up thinking circuity. A trio of studies in mice are revealing that the thalamus sustains the ability to distinguish categories and hold thoughts in mind. It might even become a target for interventions for psychiatric disorders marked by working memory problems, such as schizophrenia.

Fused Forebrain Spheroids - assembled forebrain in vitro
Human Forebrain Circuits Under Construction – in a Dish

Neuroscientists have created a 3D window into the human brain’s budding executive hub assembling itself during a critical period in prenatal development.

light brown mouse
Potential Source of HIV Persistence Confirmed

Scientists have shown that a class of immune cells not thought to be a primary reservoir for HIV can harbor the virus even following antiretroviral treatment (ART).

Neural connections form at the tips of brain cell’s branch-like extensions
Sleep May Trim Neural Connections to Restore Learning Ability

Sleep may be the price we pay for the ability to learn. It streamlines neural connections for optimal efficiency.

LSD in its receptor
Revealed: LSD Docked in its Human Brain Target

Scientists have discovered the molecular structure of LSD in its human brain receptor.

The White House logo
Two NIMH Grantees Receive Prestigious Presidential Award

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) congratulates two NIMH grantees, Mary Kay Lobo from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Eric Morrow from Brown University, who are among the 102 scientists and researchers receiving the 2017 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).