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NIH 1998 Almanac/The Organization/NIMH/      

National Institute of Mental Health : NIMH Programs


Division of Basic and Clinical Neuroscience Research

This division explores and exploits the enormous potential of neuroscience research in combatting brain disorders. To this end, it supports basic and clinical research on neuroscience, genetics and therapeutics, training, and resource development to further understand the causes, treatment, and prevention of brain disorders. The focus is on behavioral and integrative and molecular and cellular neuroscience; genetics; and preclinical and clinical therapeutics.

Behavioral and Integrative Neuroscience Branch. This branch plans, supports, and conducts programs of research and resource development in fundamental and clinical behavioral neuroscience. Emphasis is placed on theoretical and computational, cognitive, and basic behavioral and systems neuroscience, and on the integrative neuroscience of schizophrenia, mood and other brain disorders.

Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience Branch. This branch supports research and resource development in molecular and cellular neuroscience with emphasis on signal transduction; developmental neuroscience, neuroendocrinology and neuroimmunology; and the molecular and cellular basis of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, mood disorders, and other mental illnesses.

Genetics Research Branch. This branch fosters research and research on the genetic basis of neural functioning, quantitative behavioral traits, and complex mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Emphasis is on the genetic basis of neural function, behavior, and schizophrenia, mood and other brain disorders.

Preclinical and Clinical Therapeutics Research Branch. This branch conducts programs in neuropharmacology and drug discovery, psychopharmacology, and clinical pharmacology. Also supported are phase I and II trials of compounds that offer promise of benefiting people with mental illness.

Division of Services and Intervention Research

This division fosters programs in prevention and treatment interventions, services research, clinical epidemiology, and diagnostic and disability assessment. Programs encompass research, research demonstrations, training, and resource development. The division also provides biostatistical analysis and data management reporting for research studies and analyzes and evaluates national needs and research opportunities.

Services Research and Clinical Epidemiology Branch. The branch supports research on services organization and delivery and health economics at the clinical, program and system levels in specialty mental health, general health, and other health care delivery settings. Also encompassed are interventions to improve the quality of outcomes care, including diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation services. Other areas include enhanced capacity for conducting services research and on the epidemiology of brain disorders in clinical settings, including the classification, asssessment, etiology, clinical course, and outcome of brain disorders.

Adult and Geriatric Treatment and Preventive Intervention Research Branch. Research supported by this branch centers on the pharmacologic, somatic, and psychosocial treatment of brain disorders in adults and the elderly, the rehabilitation of persons with these disorders, and the prevention of the disorders and their consequences.

Child and Adolescent Treatment and Preventive Intervention Research Branch. Activities of this branch include programs of research, research training, therapeutic medications, and resource development in the pharmacologic, somatic, and psychosocial treatment and rehabilitation of brain disorders in children and adolescents, and their prevention.

Division of Mental Disorders, Behavioral Research and AIDS

This division fosters programs in behavioral science, developmental psychopathology, prevention and early intervention, and in research on the causes of HIV (AIDS virus) infection.

Office on AIDS. This office directs, consults and advises on the development of research policy designed to promote a better understanding of the biological and behavioral causes of HIV infection. The office analyzes and evaluates research opportunities to identify areas warranting either increased or decreased program emphasis, and consults and cooperates with voluntary and professional health organizations, Federal agencies, and other NIH components.

Behavioral Science Research Branch. This branch fosters research on basic biobehav-ioral, psychological and social processes that underlie behavioral functioning, focusing on the understanding of normal behavior and on how these processes are involved in brain disorders and their treatment, prevention and services.

Developmental Psychopathology Research Branch. The branch supports programs of research in children, adolescents and young adults. The focus includes identification of risk factors for mental disorders; prevention and early intervention; diagnosis of psychopathology; and mental illnesses in relation to the occurence of aggression, violence, and traumatic stress.

Prevention, Early Intervention and Epi-demiology Research Branch. This branch supports research on risk factors for the development of psychopathology and brain disorders over the course of adult life, with an emphasis on prevention and early interventions. Other areas include diagnosis of psychopathology; intrapersonal, cognitive, and traumatic-event-related factors; and gender-related psychobiology.

Division of Intramural Research Programs

NIMH Division of Intramural Research Programs (DIRP) plans and administers a comprehensive, long-term, multidisciplinary brain and behavioral research program dealing with the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders, as well as the biological and psychosocial factors that determine normal and pathological human behavior. DIRP provides a national and international focus for mental health research.

Participating in DIRP activities are over 1,000 staff members, 50 percent of whom are investigators. Many foreign and domestic guest scientists also contribute to the research effort of DIRP. Work is conducted in laboratories at three main facilities located on the main campus of NIH in Bethesda, Md.,at the Neuroscience Center at St. Elizabeths Hospital (NSCSE) in the District of Columbia, and at the NIH Animal Center (NIHAC) in Poolesville, Md. Broad spectra of adult and childhood psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and manic-depressive illness, are studied in patients at both the NIH and St. Elizabeths facilities. In addition, hundreds of basic neuroscience projects examining many aspects of central nervous system structure and function are carried out at all three facilities.

Behavior, both normal and pathological, is studied through an interdisciplinary approach. A variety of methods is used to correlate changes in neuronal function with behavior and to identify and measure the neurochemical and neurophysiological substrates of behavior.

The regulation of central nervous system metabolism is examined at various levels to determine its role in relationship to health and disease. Relatively noninvasive brain imaging techniques such as positron emission tomography (PET), single photon emission tomography (SPECT), and functional magnetic resonance are used to study living subjects in various physiologic and pathologic states. Molecular studies focus on many aspects of synaptic neurotransmission, including the biosynthesis, release, reuptake, and metabolism of neurotransmitters. The effects of disease, dietary changes, hormones, and drugs on synaptic events constitute a major area of investigation within DIRP.

Clinical pharmacological studies designed to improve treatment of the mentally ill center on work with psychoactive and psychotherapeutic drugs. Included in these studies are efforts to identify biological events and clinical measures that can serve as predictors of therapeutic response to these drugs. Other work includes characterization of receptors for neurotransmitters and psychoactive substances whose mechanisms of action are unknown. Studies of the regulation and action of receptors at the cellular level constitute a major area of investigation.

Genetic studies include molecular genetic analyses of psychiatric and neurologic disorders, pharmacogenetic as well as epidemiologic and family studies. Data from these projects will aid in sorting out the important and complex interactions between biological systems (i.e., the central nervous system) and the environment that determine behavior.

In the Office of the Director, DIRP, are five research sections: socio-environmental stuides; genetics; pharmacology; preclinical neuroscience; and cognitive neuroscience. Other branches and laboratories are devoted to: Research Services; Neuropsychiatry*; Clinical and Research Services*; Experimental Therapeutics; Biological Psychiatry; Clinical Psychobiology; Clinical Neuroscience; Clinical Neurogenetics; Veterinary Medicine and Resources; Child Psychiatry; Clinical Brain Disorders*; Neurophysiology; Clinical Science; Brain and Cognition; Cellular and Molecular Regulation; Neurochemistry; Cerebral Metabolism; Systems Neuroscience**; Biochemical Genetics; Behavioral Endocrinology; Neurotoxicology; Geriatric Psychiatry; and Developmental Neurobiology. (** Located at St. Elizabeths; *located at the NIH Animal Center.)

Division of Extramural Activities

The most important responsibility of the DEA is to oversee the review of grant applications. Its aim is to provide every applicant with expert and fair review of his or her application and thereby ensure that NIMH supports the research and other activities that offer the greatest promise of furthering knowledge relevant to mental health and mental illness. DEA also provides committee management services and oversees activities of the National Advisory Mental Health Council, the advisory body to NIMH. In these and other ways, DEA exercises leadership in developing, implementing, and coordinating NIMH extramural programs and policies.

DEA consists of the Office of the Director, Office of Grant Referral and three branches: Clinical Review; Neuroscience Review; and Behavioral and Applied Review. Each branch administers the initial review groups (IRGs) which provide scientific and technical review of applications for research and training grants, fellowships, and cooperative agreements, as well as concept review for research and development contracts. The branches of DEA monitor the review process to ensure quality and conformity to policy. They also interpret the IRGs’ recommendations to the National Advisory Mental Health Council. DEA is responsible for management and logistics of the meetings of the council grant review. A member of DEA staff serves as executive secretary to the council grant review.

The division takes steps to ensure that grant applications reviewed by the institute adhere to guidelines on ethical conduct of research and provide for the inclusion of women and minorities in studies on human populations. The division also promotes adherence to safeguards for human and animal research.

DEA also oversees the issuance of program announcements and requests for applications (RFAs) that let the research community know what kinds of studies NIMH is most interested in supporting. Ensuring that these announcements and RFAs are clearly written, programmatically accurate, and faithfully conform to relevant criteria is DEA’s responsibility.

Office of the Associate Director for Prevention

This office provides leadership in the coordination of institute programs concerning the prevention of mental disorders and the promotion of mental health. This is done by setting institute goals and priorities, as well as by assessing, developing planning and executing internal and external strategies to implement the institute’s prevention research policy. For example, the office sponsors national conferences, convenes groups of prevention experts to increase the quality of prevention science and facilitates the preparation of scientific reports on prevention science.

In addition the office collaborates with Federal agencies, national organizations and coalitions, state, local, and consumer groups with interests in prevention. It also collaborates with the Office of Disease Prevention, the NIH prevention research coordinating committee, and other private and public organizations.

Office of Rural Mental Health Research

The ORMHR directs, plans, coordinates, and supports research activities and information dissemination on conditions unique to those living in rural areas, including research on the delivery of mental health services to such areas. Also coordinates related departmental research activities and related activities of public and nonprofit entities.

Office of the Associate Director for Special Populations

The associate director for special populations provides leadership, advice, and coordination in developing, and fostering implementation of NIMH programmatic and administrative policies to promote mental health concerns of racial/ethnic minorities and women initiates and advances plans, policies, and activities to improve health and mental health of the Nation's women and racial/ethnic minorities.

The office uses program planning, research, research training and public educational activities to promote mental health and prevent mental illness among women and racial/ethnic minorities; provides leadership in establishment and maintenance of organizational linkages and collaborates on mental health concerns of women and racial/ethnic minorities with components of HHS, other Federal agencies, professional organizations, and other health organizations and institutions; monitors progress of division-level goals and programs which bear on racial/ethnic minority and women’s issues; and provides leadership and program guidance for the Career Opportunities in Research Education and Training Program (COR), the Minority Research Infrastructure Support Program (M-RISP), and the Supplements for Underrepresented Minorities in Biomedical and Behavioral Research Program.

The COR Honors Undergraduate Program assists institutions with substantial enrollment of racial/ethnic minority students in training of greater numbers of scientists as teachers and researchers in disciplines related to research in mental health.

The M-RISP provides grants to institutions with a substantial enrollment of racial/ethnic minority students for support of research projects, enhancement of existing research infrastructure, and for advanced training of faculty. These grants also provide support for graduate and undergraduate students to serve as research associates on M-RISP projects.

The Supplements for Underrepresented Minorities in Biomedical and Behavioral Research are administrative supplements to existing research grants for research and salary support for high school students, undergraduate students, graduate research assistants, and junior level investigators. The proposed research must be an integral part of the ongoing research of the parent grant supported by NIMH. The purpose of the supplemental awards is to enhance the research capability of the minority student or faculty member, and to provide opportunites for minority individuals to develop as independent, competitive researchers.

Also, supplements exist to promote reentry into biomedical and biobehavioral research careers. This program offers administrative supplements to currently funded NIMH research grants to support individuals with high potential to reenter an active research career after taking time to care for children or parents or to attend to other family responsibilities.


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