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Spring 2013 Inside NIMH

Inside NIMH: Funding News for Current and Future Awardees

Welcome to the latest edition of Inside NIMH. We publish Inside NIMH in conjunction with each meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council, which advises the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, and the Director of NIMH on all policies and activities relating to the conduct and support of mental health research, research training, and other programs of the Institute. In addition, check out the Director’s blog on our website for regular updates on timely topics at NIMH. I hope you find this information interesting and helpful. Please let us know if you have questions or comments on this edition.


Thomas R. Insel, M.D.
Director, National Institute of Mental Health

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I. Message from the NIMH Director

This has been a busy period for NIMH. We continue to respond to the tragedy of Sandy Hook, we are part of the new NIH BRAIN Initiative, and there have been several important scientific developments. I realize that most grantees are understandably concerned about our budget, so let’s start there.

Budget Overview

FY 2013 Budget

We received a final fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget on May 8, more than seven months into the fiscal year. The final Congressional appropriation was roughly a 5% reduction from the FY 2012 budget, reduced slightly more by an additional tap from Health and Human Services (HHS), with a final allocation of $1.395 billion. On top of nine years of budgets that did not keep pace with inflation, this reduction will cause some pain. Is this simply another long downturn in the historic cycle of funding, or are we facing a new reality about federal support for biomedical research? For now, we are hopeful that funding will rebound as it has in the past, as the public realizes that biomedical research is an investment, not a cost.

How are we implementing the “sequester” budget in FY 2013? NIMH has cut continuing grants, its intramural research program, and its own administrative support by 4%. As we feel strongly that it is important to continue to build and balance the pipeline of potential new investigators, training grants (T and F grants) and career awards (K grants) were not reduced. We expect the total number of new funded grants to drop from 584 in FY 2012 to roughly 529 in FY2013, a drop of 9.4%. While this drop in new grants is unwelcome, the number is close to our mean in recent years.

In contrast to many of our sister institutes at NIH, NIMH does not fund according to a strict pay line. The Institute expects to support most of the applications that have an impact score up to the 10th percentile, many between the 10th and the 20th percentile, and some beyond the 20th percentile, based on factors such as the Institute’s Strategic Plan, programmatic portfolio consideration, and availability of funds. Overall, as in past years, we expect to support roughly three-fourths of the proposals with scores under the 20th percentile (or with comparable impact scores for non-percentiled applications). Because our funding decisions are based on both peer review (for scientific merit) and secondary review by Council (for portfolio balance and strategic priorities), it is important for applicants to speak with a program officer early in the process.

2013 research project grants

What about FY 2014?

In April 2013, the President submitted his FY 2014 budget request to Congress. The request for NIMH is $1.466 billion, representing a $72 million increase from FY 2013, but a total still less than our FY 2012 allocation. This total reflects a realignment of $27 million from our AIDS Budget to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to expand collaborative efforts. The President’s Budget also provides $7.5 million to NIMH as part of the multi-Institute, multi-Agency collaboration for creating the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies ), as described below.


Improving Prediction and Prevention of Serious Mental Illness

NIMH has planned several new research initiatives ramping up the Institute’s commitment to early treatment of serious mental illness. There are two objectives to these initiatives: (a) better detection of youth and young adults at high risk for psychosis, and (b) reduction of the duration of untreated psychosis, now estimated to be 2 years. The funds will support efforts to develop biosignatures to detect individuals at risk for an initial psychotic episode, and will expand a network of community sites to reduce the duration of untreated psychosis.

On June 3, 2013, President Obama will host a White House conversation to launch the National Dialogue on Mental Health, an effort led by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The National Dialogue seeks to engage communities in conversation about mental health; develop and distribute a discussion guide that contains scientific facts about mental illnesses; and improve the flow of people from referral to treatment. NIMH has been contributing to SAMHSA’s efforts to create a toolkit to maximize the impact of these community conversations. In addition, NIMH has been participating in the development of a new “ ” website, which will be part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health.

BRAIN Initiative

BRAIN Initiative
Source: Science AAAS

On April 2, President Obama proposed the BRAIN Initiative  as “the next great American project.” The BRAIN Initiative has been described as a bold initiative that can transform not only our fundamental understanding of the brain, but also revolutionize our approach to brain diseases (Insel et al, Science, 2013). The BRAIN Initiative is launching with more than $100 million in government funding planned for research in FY 2014. NIH will invest $40 million, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will invest $50 million, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) will invest $10 million. Of the NIH funds, $10 million will come from the Neuroscience Blueprint (a common fund from several institutes for these kinds of collective projects), $10 million from the Office of the Director, and the remainder will come from NIH Institutes. NIMH intends to commit $7.5 million, requested as new funds within the President’s FY 2014 budget. Foundations and private research institutions are also investing in the neuroscience that will advance the BRAIN Initiative.


CLARITY 3-D analysis of intact mouse hippocampus

The Clear Lipid-exchanged Anatomically Rigid Imaging/immunostaining-compatible Tissue hYdrogel  (CLARITY) project is an excellent example of the kinds of work we hope to foster via the BRAIN Initiative. With funding from NIMH and the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award Program , Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, and his colleagues at Stanford University recently revealed how CLARITY enables researchers to study the brain’s finer workings, while preserving its 3-D structure and the integrity of its circuitry and other biological machinery. By replacing fat that normally holds the brain’s working components in place with a permeable hydrogel, the researchers are able to make the brain’s normally opaque and impenetrable tissue transparent and permeable. Staining of the 3-D brain localizes proteins, neurotransmitters, and genes at a high resolution. In addition to its use in animal research, this method can be used in postmortem human brains - even tissue that has been stored for years. Tools like CLARITY will clearly shed light on how the brain works in health and illness.

Changing Priorities for Clinical Trials

NIMH has been shifting its support of clinical trials to focus on experimental medicine and target validation studies. For both biomedical and psychosocial treatments, the Institute is looking for (a) trials that interrogate a specific target, (b) trials for which negative results will be informative, and (c) trials not constrained by current diagnostic criteria. Stay tuned for more information about the details, but in the meantime, be sure to discuss with a program officer before submitting a clinical trial proposal.

New and Notable

Here is a selection of the Institute’s most recently funded projects that exemplify our efforts to accelerate mental health research and to advance the NIMH Strategic Plan:

  • As part of the renewed Autism Centers of Excellent (ACE) program, Sally Rogers, PhD , (University of California, Davis) is conducting a multi-site randomized clinical trial to investigate the effectiveness of the Early Start Denver Model , a behavioral intervention designed to improve the development of young children with ASD. The findings from this study could provide important information about what combination of treatment type and intensity is most beneficial for very young children with ASD, and whether the benefits are maintained as the child ages.
  • Thousands of neurons coordinate the activity of high-level brain functions, such as cognition and memory, and these precise rhythms are disrupted in disorders such as schizophrenia. Using an innovative gene-based technology, Stefan Leutgeb, PhD , (University of California, San Diego) is manipulating neuron activity levels to examine whether rhythmic timing in the hippocampus - a brain region involved in learning and memory - provides the information neurons need to coordinate memory formation and/or recall. These studies might be useful in developing therapeutic interventions that could restore proper coordination of brain circuits to improve cognitive function.
  • Although evidence-based treatments (EBTs) for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) exist, many individuals do not seek treatment, citing barriers such as time commitment and cost. Denise Sloan, PhD , (Boston University Medical Campus) aims to evaluate the use of an alternative PTSD treatment, written exposure therapy (WET), by comparing it to a more time-intensive EBT: cognitive processing therapy. The findings from these studies may help to establish WET as an alternative PTSD treatment that is effective, efficient, easily disseminated, and well-tolerated.
  • Evidence suggests that the activity of the brain chemical glutamate may be disrupted in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a brain imaging technology that can detect levels of chemical messengers in the brain, Christopher Pittenger, MD, PhD , (Yale) will investigate glutamate levels in brain regions associated with OCD. He will assess how well these neurochemical measurements predict response to medication treatment when patients either receive a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor alone (a standard treatment for OCD), or paired with a drug that affects glutamate activity. These studies may shed light on important mechanisms that underlie treatment response.

For more information on these and other grants selected for funding, please visit the NIH RePORTER website .

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II. Grantee Awards

NIMH proudly recognizes the following current grantees for their election to the following:

  • The National Academy of Sciences (NAS):
    • Ben A. Barres, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine.
    • Joseph E. LeDoux, PhD, Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science, Center for Neural Science, New York University.
    • Daniel L. Schacter, PhD, William R. Kenan Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard University.
  • The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies:
    • Karl A. Deisseroth, MD, PhD, D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University.
    • Bruce R. Rosen, MD, PhD, Professor of Radiology and Health Sciences and Technology, Harvard Medical School, Director, Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital.

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III. New Announcements about Funding Opportunities

Each week, NIH electronically distributes the NIH GUIDE , a listing of all NIH Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs), that include requests for applications (RFAs), program announcements (PAs), and important notices for the scientific community. Below is a selection of recently issued FOAs in which NIMH participates. The Research and Funding page on the NIMH website has links to listings of all NIMH FOAs and other resources.

Note: You can subscribe to the NIMH Funding Opportunities ListServ  to receive the latest information about RFAs and other research funding opportunities from NIMH, as well as administrative updates and changes to grant policies and procedures. You can also subscribe to a separate ListServ to receive weekly emails of the NIH GUIDE .

NIMH-Administered Requests for Applications

  • Clinical Neuroscience and Entertainment Software Pilot Partnership Program to Develop Neuropsychiatric Interventions
    • Release date: January 16, 2013; Expiration date: June 6, 2013
    • R43/R44 announcement (RFA-MH-14-010 )
  • PsychENCODE: Identification and Characterization of Non-coding Functional Elements in the Brain, and their Role in the Development of Mental Disorders
    • Release date: March 7, 2013; Expiration date: June 10, 2013
    • R01 announcement (RFA-MH-14-020 )
  • Advancing Eating Disorders Research through Dimensional Studies of Biology and Behavior
    • Release date: March 6, 2013; Expiration date: June 11, 2013
    • R01 announcement (RFA-MH-14-030 )
  • Dimensional Approaches to Research Classification in Psychiatric Disorders
    • Release date: March 7, 2013; Expiration date: June 27, 2013
    • R01 announcement (RFA-MH-14-050 )
  • Limited Competition: Mental Health Research Network II
    • Release date: May 8, 2013; Expiration date: July 22, 2013
    • U19 announcement (RFA-MH-14-110 )
  • Integration and Analysis of Diverse HIV-Associated Data
    • Release date: May 6, 2013; Expiration date: August 19, 2013
    • R03 announcement (RFA-MH-14-200 )
  • Methodologies and Formative Work for Combination HIV Prevention Approaches
  • Eradication of HIV-1 from CNS Reservoirs: Implications for Therapeutics
  • Gut-Microbiome-Brain Interactions and Mental Health
    • Release date: March 8, 2013; Expiration date: October 10, 2013
    • R21/R33 announcement (RFA-MH-14-080 )
  • Pediatric Suicide Prevention in Emergency Departments
    • Release date: April 15, 2013; Expiration date: October 18, 2013
    • U01 announcement (RFA-MH-14-070 )
  • Biobehavioral Research Awards for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS)
    • Release date: June 18, 2012; Expiration date: October 23, 2013
    • R01 announcement (RFA-MH-13-110 )
  • Improving Health and Reducing Premature Mortality in People with Severe Mental Illness
    • Release date: March 12, 2013; Expiration date: November 7, 2013
    • R01 announcement (RFA-MH-14-060 )
  • National Cooperative Reprogrammed Cell Research Groups (NCRCRG) to Study Mental Illness
    • Release date: May 8, 2013; Expiration date: January 8, 2016
    • U19 announcement (PAR-13-225 )
  • Reducing the Duration of Untreated Psychosis in the United States
    • Release date: April 10, 2013; Expiration date: May 8, 2016
    • R01 announcement (PAR-13-187 )
    • R34 announcement (PAR-13-188 )

NIMH-Collaborative Requests for Applications

  • NIH Administrative Supplements to Recover Losses Due to Hurricane Sandy Under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act - Non-Construction
    • Release date: April 15, 2013; Expiration date: June 12, 2013; January 14, 2014
    • Administrative Supplement announcement (RFA-OD-13-199 )
  • Undiagnosed Diseases Gene Function Research
    • Release date: April 2, 2013; Expiration date: June 14, 2013
    • R21 announcement (RFA-RM-13-003 )
  • Limited Competition: Restoration of New Investigator Pilot Projects Adversely Affected by Hurricane Sandy
    • Release date: April 15, 2013; Expiration date: June 19, 2013
    • R21 announcement (RFA-OD-13-005 )
  • Short Courses on Innovative Methodologies in the Behavioral and Social Sciences
    • Release date: May 3, 2013; Expiration date: July 3, 2013
    • R25 announcement (RFA-OD-13-009 )
  • Limited Competition: Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study: Center for the Coordination, Analysis, and Management of the MACS (CAMACS)
    • Release date: March 8, 2013; Expiration date: July 11, 2013
    • UM1 announcement (RFA-AI-13-010 )
  • Limited Competition: Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) Clinical Research Sites
    • Release date: March 8, 2013; Expiration date: July 11, 2013
    • U01 announcement (RFA-AI-13-011 )
  • Delivering Therapeutics to Residual Active HIV Reservoirs
    • Release date: January 15, 2013; Expiration date: July 24, 2013
    • R01 announcement (RFA-AI-12-042 )
  • Limited Competition: Revision Applications for Basic Social and Behavioral Research on the Social, Cultural, Biological, and Psychological Mechanisms of Stigma
    • Release date: March 20, 2013; Expiration date: August 2, 2013
    • R01 announcement (RFA-MD-13-005 )
  • Evaluation of the Latent Reservoir in HIV-Infected Infants and Children with Early Antiretroviral Treatment and Virologic Control
    • Release date: February 6, 2013; Expiration date: August 30, 2013
    • R01 announcement (RFA-HD-14-026 )
  • Research on the Role of Epigenetics in Social, Behavioral, Environmental and Biological Relationships, throughout the Life-Span and across Generations
    • Release date: May 17, 2013; Expiration date: November 13, 2013
    • R21 announcement (RFA-TW-13-002 )
  • Short-term Mentored Career Enhancement Awards in the Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences: Cross-Training at the Intersection of Animal Models and Human Investigation
    • Release date: March 1, 2013; Expiration date: December 11, 2013
    • K18 announcement (RFA-DA-14-002 )
  • Development of Highly Innovative Tools and Technology for Analysis of Single Cells
    • Release date: March 13, 2013; Expiration date: January 8, 2016
    • R43/R44 announcement (PA-13-140 )

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IV. Future Research Directions

Concept Clearances for Potential New Research Initiatives

This listing of potential future initiatives is meant to provide the earliest possible alert to the field of our research interests and of potential upcoming announcements to solicit that research. While NIMH plans to proceed with these initiatives, their publication and timing are not certain and depend on sufficient funding. The titles and brief descriptions are consistent with the information available at the time of concept clearance. The resultant FOAs may differ from the concepts in the final wording of their titles or other aspects. To send questions about a specific concept, follow the "Submit Comments" link at the bottom of the description.

Related Information

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V. Outreach Activities

Many of the Institute’s outreach and public liaison activities are overseen by the NIMH Office of Constituency Relations and Public Liaison (OCRPL). These activities include interactions with advocates for individuals with mental illness, as well as professional, scientific, and community-based organizations interested in the mission and/or programs of NIMH.

Outreach Partnership Program

The Outreach Partnership Program (OPP) is a nationwide OCRPL initiative to increase the public’s access to science-based mental health information through partnerships with national and state nonprofit organizations.

  • The OPP convened its Annual Meeting March 12-14, 2013, in Bethesda, MD. Partners heard talks from NIMH Director Dr. Insel, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, and scientists from the NIMH Division of Intramural Research Programs. The Partners also had the opportunity to participate in discussions with NIMH grantees. Major topics included (1) improving the health and longevity of individuals with serious mental illness, and (2) the national conversation about mental illness following the tragedy in Newtown, CT, including the issues of mental illness and violence, involuntary commitment, and early identification of mental illness in primary care settings.
  • The OPP recently launched a new e-newsletter, Outreach Connection , featuring the activities of its Partners. Outreach Connection will be distributed three times a year and will share examples of how Outreach Partners and National Partners are disseminating NIMH research to their communities, educating the public about opportunities to participate in research, and working with the research community. 

NIMH Alliance for Research Progress

The NIMH Alliance for Research Progress, another OCRPL initiative, comprises advocates from national voluntary organizations representing individuals with mental illness, as well as their family members and others concerned about them. The Alliance meets twice a year to allow the NIMH Director and staff to hear views and concerns about current Institute priorities directly from these representatives.

  • NIMH convened the eighteenth meeting of the Alliance on February 8, 2013. In addition to hearing a research update from Dr. Insel, Alliance members heard presentations on accelerating cures, catalyzing translational research, implementing evidence-based psychotherapies in the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and building the agenda for mental health parity.

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VI. Update on Electronic Research Administration (eRA) Activities

For more information on all these updates, please see the NIH eRA News and Events page .

Electronic Grant Application Submission News

  • How Applicants Should Deal With System Issues that Threaten On-time Submission
    • If an applicant has a technical issue with a Federal system that threatens their ability to submit the application by the deadline, applicants should refer the NIH system issue policy  to avoid being penalized for problems with Federal systems.
  • Updates to Electronic Submission of Multi-component Applications
  • Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR)
    • Starting in May 2013, investigators will be required to use the Research Performance Progress Report  (RPPR) module for submitting Streamlined Noncompeting Award Process  (SNAP) and Fellowship progress reports. You can read the official Guide Notice  for more detailed information. Researchers who have not already tried using the eRA RPPR module are encouraged to become familiar with the new process now. Note that RPPR will be replacing the eSNAP tab in eRA Commons, and eSNAP functionality will eventually be retired.

Questions? Contact the eRA help desk . This help desk contact is the only way to document problems and become eligible for any special consideration by the CSR Division of Receipt and Referral should you run into a system problem with or with eRA that is beyond your control.

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VII. Research Training and Career Development

Upcoming Change to the K99/R00 Program

Based on recommendations from the Biomedical Workforce Task Force  of the Advisory Committee to the Director, there will be a change in the postdoctoral eligibility window for the NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) . Effective for applications due February 12, 2014, and beyond, the eligibility window will be reduced from 5 to 4 years. That is, candidates must have no more than 4 years of postdoctoral experience at the time of the initial application or the subsequent resubmission. Details about changes in the K99/R00 program are available in NOT-OD-13-034  and NOT-OD-13-050 . Potential K99/R00 applicants and their mentors are encouraged to contact NIMH Program Staff with any questions about this change in eligibility or about application preparation.

We’re interested in feedback from the community; comments or suggestions related to NIMH’s support for research training and career development may be directed to

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VIII. Director’s Blog

The following blogs by former NIMH Director Thomas Insel are no longer available.

  • Transforming Diagnosis (April 29, 2013)
    • NIMH is committed to new and better treatments, but this will only happen by developing a more precise diagnostic system. Going forward, we will be supporting research projects that look across current categories - or sub-divide current categories - to begin to develop a better system. RDoC is nothing less than a plan to transform clinical practice by bringing a new generation of research to inform how we diagnose and treat mental disorders.
  • New Views into the Brain (April 10, 2013)
    • A powerful new brain imaging technique - CLARITY - will make it possible for scientists to investigate the brain in an entirely new way, offering a preview of what scientists hope to achieve with tools developed as a result of the new BRAIN Initiative.
  • Schizophrenia as a Health Disparity (March 29, 2013)
    • What does epidemiological research in Sweden tells us about premature mortality experienced by people with serious mental illness, and what we need to do to change that?
  • Making the Connection (March 22, 2013)
    • Neuroscience research is the key to our being able to identify psychosis risk early and preempt the development of serious mental illness.
  • Brain Awareness (March 11, 2013)
    • The mysteries that remain to be solved about how the brain works are discussed in this blog on Brain Awareness Month.
  • The Four Kingdoms of Autism (February 26, 2013)
    • Different perspectives separate the communities interested in autism; nevertheless, areas of common ground provide an avenue to move forward.
  • Network Solutions (February 05, 2013)
    • NIMH’s Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) study is exploring an integrated, multi-component approach to health care for schizophrenia.

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IX. Recent NIMH Science News

The latest news and updates from NIMH-supported research:

Publicizing NIMH research is a communal responsibility - we need your help! Please help us spread the word about the results of NIMH funding by acknowledging our support of your research, for example, in journal articles (citing your NIMH award by number when possible) and other communications. NIMH has two primary methods of getting the word out: press releases and science updates. All releases and updates are posted to the Science News section of the NIMH Web site. These are also distributed to the public through a mailing list .

If you have a manuscript accepted for publication that describes an especially significant finding, please contact your NIMH Program Official to discuss the possibility of a news release or other forms of dissemination.

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X. Connect with NIMH

Our newest effort to reach our stakeholders is a service that allows you to subscribe for updates  sent directly to your email inbox on the NIMH topics of your choice. In addition to our email newsletters and RSS updates, NIMH offers a vodcast series entitled “Speaking of Science,” and YouTube  videos on mental health topics. We have also entered the world of Twitter , where we highlight Science Updates, Press Releases, and other timely matters. You can even find us on Facebook !

Check us out!

Inside NIMH is produced by the National Institute of Mental Health. For more information about the Institute, visit our Web site at For comments and suggestions about Inside NIMH, please contact the NIMH Webmaster. The material in this newsletter is not copyrighted, and we encourage its use or reprinting.

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