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Mission | Important Events | Legislative Chronology | Director | Programs


The mission of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is to reduce the burden of mental illness and behavioral disorders through research on mind, brain, and behavior .

In the United States, mental disorders collectively account for more than 15 percent of the overall "burden of disease" – a term that encompasses both premature death and disability associated with mental illness. Mental disorders occur across the life span, from very young childhood into old age.

Investments made over the past 50 years in basic brain and behavioral science have positioned NIMH to exploit recent advances in neuroscience, molecular genetics, behavioral science and brain imaging; to translate new knowledge about fundamental processes into researchable clinical questions; and to initiate innovative clinical trials of new pharmacological and psychosocial interventions, with emphasis on testing their effectiveness in the diagnostically complex, diverse group of patients typically encountered in front-line service delivery systems. NIMH-funded investigators also seek new ways to translate results from basic behavioral science into research relevant to public health, including the epidemiology of mental disorders, prevention and early intervention research, and mental health service research.

Diverse scientific disciplines contribute to the design and evaluation of treatments and treatment delivery strategies that are relevant and responsive to the needs of persons with and at risk for mental illness. A thrust of this research is to eliminate the effects of disparities in the availability of and access to high quality mental health services. These disparities, which impinge on the mental health status of all Americans, are felt in particular by many members of ethnic/cultural, minority groups, and by women, children, and elderly people.

In this era of opportunity, NIMH is strongly committed to scientific programs to educate and train future mental health researchers, including scientists trained in molecular science, cognitive and affective neuroscience, and other disciplines urgently needed in studies of mental illness and the brain.

Mechanisms of Support. The NIMH provides leadership at a national level for research on brain, behavior, and mental illness.

Under a rigorous and highly competitive process, the institute funds research project and research center grant awards and contracts to individual investigators in fields related to its areas of interest and to public and private institutions. NIMH also maintains and conducts a diversified program of intramural and collaborative research in its own laboratories and clinical research units at the National Institutes of Health.

NIMH's informational and educational activities include the dissemination of information and education materials on mental illness to health professionals and the public; professional associations; international, national, state, and local officials; and voluntary organizations working in the areas of mental health and mental illness.

Important Events in NIMH History

1946 – On July 3 President Truman signs the National Mental Health Act, which called for the establishment of a National Institute of Mental Health. The first meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) was held on August 15. Because no federal funds had yet been appropriated for the new institute, the Greentree Foundation financed the meeting.

1947 – On July 1 the PHS Division of Mental Hygiene awarded the first mental health research grant (MH-1) entitled "Basic Nature of the Learning Process" to Dr. Winthrop N. Kellogg of Indiana University.

1949 – On April 15 the NIMH was formally established; it was one of the first four NIH institutes.

1955 – The Mental Health Study Act of 1955 (P.L. 84-182) called for "an objective, thorough, nationwide analysis and reevaluation of the human and economic problems of mental health." The resulting Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health issued a report, Action for Mental Health that was researched and published under the sponsorship of 36 organizations making up the Commission.

1961Action for Mental Health, a 10-volume series, assessed mental health conditions and resources throughout the United States "to arrive at a national program that would approach adequacy in meeting the individual needs of the mentally ill people of America." Transmitted to Congress on December 31, 1960, the report commanded the attention of President John F. Kennedy, who established a cabinet level interagency committee to examine the recommendations and determine an appropriate federal response.

1963 – President Kennedy submitted a special message to Congress – the first Presidential message to Congress on mental health issues. Energized by the President's focus, Congress quickly passed the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act (P.L. 88-164), beginning a new era in Federal support for mental health services. NIMH assumed responsibility for monitoring the Nation's community mental health centers (CMHC) programs.

1965 – During the mid-1960s, NIMH launched an extensive attack on special mental health problems. Part of this was a response to President Johnson's pledge to apply scientific research to social problems. The Institute established centers for research on schizophrenia, child and family mental health, suicide, as well as crime and delinquency, minority group mental health problems, urban problems, and later, rape, aging, and technical assistance to victims of natural disasters. A provision in the Social Security Amendments of 1965 (P.L. 89-97) provided funds and a framework for a new Joint Commission on the Mental Health of Children to recommend national action for child mental health.

Also in this year, staffing amendments to the CMHC act authorized grants to help pay the salaries of professional and technical personnel in federally funded Community Mental Health Centers.

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism did not receive full recognition as a major public health problem until the mid-1960s, when the National Center for Prevention and Control of Alcoholism was established as part of NIMH; a research program on drug abuse was inaugurated within NIMH with the establishment of the Center for Studies of Narcotic and Drug Abuse.

1967 – NIMH separated from NIH and was given Bureau status within PHS by reorganization effective January 1. However, NIMH's intramural research program, which conducted studies in the NIH Clinical Center and other NIH facilities, remained at NIH under an agreement for joint administration between NIH and NIMH.

On August 13 DHEW Secretary John W. Gardner transferred St. Elizabeth's Hospital, the Federal Government's only civilian psychiatric hospital, to NIMH.

1968 – NIMH became a component of PHS's Health Services and Mental Health Administration (HSMHA).

1970 – Dr. Julius Axelrod, an NIMH researcher, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research into the chemistry of nerve transmission for "discoveries concerning the humoral transmitters in the nerve terminals and the mechanisms for their storage, release and inactivation." He found an enzyme that terminated the action of the nerve transmitter, noradrenaline in the synapse and which also served as a critical target of many antidepressant drugs.

In a major development that reaped untold benefits for people suffering from manic-depressive illness (bipolar disorder), the FDA approved the use of lithium as a treatment for mania, based upon NIMH research. The treatment led to sharp drops in inpatient days and suicides among people with this serious mental illness and to immense savings in the economic costs associated with bipolar disorder.

Also during this year, the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act (P.L. 91-616) established the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism within NIMH.

1972 – The Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act established a National Institute on Drug Abuse within NIMH.

1973 – NIMH went through a series of organizational moves. The Institute temporarily rejoined NIH on July 1 with the abolishment of HSMHA. Then, the DHEW secretary administratively established the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA) – composed of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and NIMH – as the successor organization to HSMHA.

1974 – ADAMHA was officially established on May 4 when President Nixon signed P.L. 93-282.

1975 – The community mental health centers program was given added impetus with the passage of the CMHC amendments of 1975.

1977 – President Carter established the President's Commission on Mental Health on February 17 by Executive Order No. 11973. The commission was charged to review the mental health needs of the Nation, and to make recommendations to the President as to how best meet these needs. First Lady Rosalyn Carter served as the Honorary Chair of the commission.

1978 – The 4-volume Report to the President from the President's Commission on Mental Health was submitted.

1980 – The Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) study, an unprecedented research effort that entailed interviews with a nationally representative sample of 20,000 Americans was launched. The field interviews and first wave analyses were completed in 1985. Data from the ECA provided an accurate picture of rates of mental and addictive disorders and services usage.

The Mental Health Systems Act – based on recommendations of the President's Commission on Mental Health and designed to provide improved services for persons with mental disorders – was passed. NIMH also participated in development of the National Plan for the Chronically Mentally Ill, a sweeping effort to improve services and fine-tune various Federal entitlement programs for those with severe, persistent mental disorders.

1981 – President Ronald Reagan signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981. This act repealed the Mental Health Systems Act and consolidated ADAMHA's treatment and rehabilitation service programs into a single block grant that enabled each State to administer its allocated funds. With the repeal of the community mental health legislation and the establishment of block grants, the Federal role in services to the mentally ill became one of providing technical assistance to increase the capacity of State and local providers of mental health services.

Dr. Louis Sokoloff, an intramural NIMH researcher, received the Albert Lasker Award in Clinical Medical Research for developing a new method of measuring brain function that contributed to basic understanding and diagnosis of brain diseases. His technique, which measures the brain's utilization of glucose, made possible exciting new applications positron emission tomography, or PET scanning, the first imaging technology that permitted scientists to "observe" and obtain visual images of the living, functioning brain.

1981 – Dr. Roger Sperry, a longtime NIMH research grantee, received the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for discoveries regarding the functional specialization of the cerebral hemispheres, or the "left" and "right" brain.

1983 – NIMH-funded investigator Fernando Nottebohm discovered the formation of new neurons in brains of adult song-birds; this evidence of "neurogenesis" opened an exciting and clinically promising new line of research in brain science; it was 15 years, however, before investigators reported finding evidence for continued neurogenesis in the brains of adult human subjects.

1987 – Administrative control of St. Elizabeth's Hospital is transferred from the NIMH to the District of Columbia. NIMH retained research facilities on the grounds of the hospital.

1989 – Congress passed a resolution, subsequently signed as a proclamation by President George Bush, designating the 1990s as the "Decade of the Brain."

1989 – The NIMH Neuroscience Center and the NIMH Neuropsychiatric Research Hospital, located on the grounds of St. Elizabeth's Hospital, were dedicated on September 25.

1992 – Congress passed the ADAMHA Reorganization Act (P.L. 102-321), abolishing ADAMHA. The research components of NIAAA, NIDA and NIMH rejoined NIH, while the services components of each institute became part of a new PHS agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The return to NIH and the loss of services functions to SAMHSA necessitated a realignment of the NIMH extramural program administrative organization. New offices are created for research on Prevention, Special Populations, Rural Mental Health and AIDS.

1993 – NIMH established the Silvio O. Conte Centers program to provide a unifying research framework for collaborations to pursue newly formed hypotheses of brain-behavior relationships in mental illness through innovative research designs and state-of-the-art technologies.

1993 – NIMH established the Human Brain Project to develop, through cutting-edge imaging, computer, and network technologies, a comprehensive neuroscience database accessible via an international computer network.

1994 – Intramural Research Program Revitalization – The House Appropriations Committee mandated that the director of NIH conduct a review of the role, size, and cost of all NIH intramural research programs (IRP). NIMH and the NAMHC initiated a major study of the NIMH Intramural Research Program. The planning committee recommended continued investment in the IRP and recommended specific administrative changes; many of these were implemented upon release of the committee's final report; other changes – for example, the establishment of a major new program on Mood and Anxiety Disorders – have been introduced in the years since.

1996 – NIMH, with the NAMHC, initiated systematic reviews of a number of areas of its research portfolio, including the genetics of mental disorders; epidemiology and services for child and adolescent populations; prevention research; clinical treatment and services research. At the request of the NIMH director, the NAMH Council established programmatic groups in each of these areas. NIMH continued to implement recommendations issued by these Workgroups.

1996 – Childhood Mental Disorders Research Prioritization – NIMH increased the priority placed on research on childhood mental disorders and clinical neuroscience and initiated efforts to expand research in these areas.

Implementation of Human Subjects Protection in Clinical Research – NIMH expanded its efforts to safeguard and improve the protections of human subjects who participate in clinical mental health research.

1996-1998 – Peer Review Integration in Neuroscience, Behavioral Science, and AIDS – NIMH initiated planning for integration of the Institute's peer review system for neuroscience, behavioral and social science and AIDS research applications into the overall NIH peer review system.

1997 – Extramural Program Reorganization – NIMH realigned its extramural organizational structure to capitalize on new technologies and approaches to both basic and clinical science, as well as immense changes that have occurred in health care delivery systems, while retaining the Institute's focus on mental illness. The new extramural organization resulted in three research divisions: Basic and Clinical Neuroscience Research; Services and Intervention Research; and Mental Disorders, Behavioral Research and AIDS.

1997-1999 – NIMH refocused career development resources on early careers and added new mechanisms for clinical research.

1999 – The NIMH Neuroscience Center/Neuropsychiatric Research Hospital was relocated from St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. to the NIH Campus in Bethesda, MD, in response to the recommendations of the 1996 review of the NIMH Intramural Research Program by the IRP Planning Committee.

1999 – The first White House Conference on Mental Health, held June 7, in Washington, DC, brought together national leaders, mental health scientific and clinical personnel, patients, and consumers to discuss needs and opportunities. NIMH developed materials and helped organize the conference.

1999 – NIMH convened its fourth rural mental health research conference in August. "Mental Health at the Frontier: Alaska," was held in Anchorage, with visits by researchers and program representatives to several towns and villages. The aim was to solicit assistance in the development of a research agenda focusing on mental health issues for people who live in rural or frontier areas, with a focus on the needs of Alaska Natives.

1999 – NIMH hosted "Dialogue: Texas," which was the first in a series of mental health forums to solicit input from the public on the direction of future research at NIMH and to highlight current research. Held in San Antonio, the forum provided Texas consumers, researchers, care providers, and policymakers the opportunity to discuss mental health issues of greatest concern. The meeting focused on Latino and Hispanic populations.

1999 – U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher released The Surgeon General's Call To Action To Prevent Suicide, in July, and the first Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health, in December. NIMH, along with other Federal agencies, collaborated in the preparation of both of these landmark reports.

2000 – NIMH created the Council Work Group on Training for Diversity in February 2000 to ensure adequate opportunities for minorities to pursue research careers, and to track the success of related Institute programs.

In the late 1990s, NIMH began to strengthen its efforts to include the public in its priority setting and strategic planning processes, instituting a variety of approaches in which to insure increased public participation.

  • The NIMH expanded and revitalized its public education and prevention information dissemination programs, including information on suicide, eating disorders, and panic disorder, in addition to the ongoing Institute educational program, Depression: Awareness, Recognition, and Treatment (D/ART).

  • NIMH also launched an initiative to educate people about anxiety disorders, to decrease stigma and trivialization of these disorders, and to encourage people to seek treatment promptly.

  • NIMH included members of the public on its scientific review committees reviewing grant applications in the clinical and services research areas.

  • 2000 – NIMH launched a 5-year communications initiative in March 2000 called the Constituency Outreach and Education Program, enlisting nationwide partnerships with state organizations to disseminate science-based mental health information to the public and health professionals, and increase access to effective treatments.

  • 2000 – NIMH co-hosted two town meetings in Chicago on the mental health needs of minority youth and related research. The first meeting, held in April 2000, focused on behavioral, emotional, and cognitive disorders; the impact of violence; the criminalization of youth with treatment needs; service system issues; barriers to treatment; and barriers to research. The July 2000 meeting addressed the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV, and the role of the family and society in stemming the spread of HIV, as well as the increase in violence. Members of the general public, parents, teachers, school officials, guidance counselors, and professionals in the health, family assistance, social services, and juvenile justice fields attended the meetings.

2000 – NIMH assisted First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton conduct a meeting on the Safe Use of Medication To Treat Young Children, in March.

2000 – NIMH organized the "14th International Conference on Challenges for the 21st Century: Mental Health Services Research," held in Washington, D.C., July 2000,to address how to meet mental health service needs nationwide most effectively, reduce health disparities, and provide equitable treatments in an era of managed care.

2000 – Dr. Eric Kandel and Dr. Paul Greengard, each of whom have received NIMH support for more than three decades, shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sweden's Dr. Arvid Carlsson. Dr. Kandel received the prize for his elucidating research on the functional modification of synapses in the brain. Initially using the sea slug as an experimental model but later working with mice, he established that the formation of memories is a consequence of short and long-term changes in the biochemistry of nerve cells. Further, he and his colleagues showed that these changes occur at the level of synapses, individual contacts between nerve cells. Dr. Greengard was recognized for his discovery that dopamine and a number of other transmitters can alter the functional state of neuronal proteins. These findings made it clear that signaling between neurons could alter their function not only in the short term but also in the long term. Also, he learned, such changes could be reversed by subsequent environmental signals.

2000 - Nancy Andreasen, M.D., Ph.D., a psychiatrist and long-time NIMH grantee, wins National Medal of Science for her groundbreaking work in schizophrenia and for joining behavioral science with neuroscience and neuroimaging. The Presidential Award is one of the nation's highest awards in science.

2001 – NIMH convened in Pittsburgh more than 150 clinical and basic scientists with expertise relevant to the study of mood disorders to help develop a Research Strategic Plan for Mood Disorders. A public forum held in conjunction with the meeting focused on the frequent co-occurrence of depression with general medical illnesses.

2001 – NIMH launched several long-term, large-scale, multi-site, community based clinical studies to determine the effectiveness of treatment for bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive illness); depression in adolescents; antipsychotic medications in the treatment of schizophrenia, and management of psychotic symptoms and behavioral problems associated with Alzheimer's disease; and subsequent treatment alternatives to relieve depression.

2001 – The Surgeon General released a Report on Children's Mental Health indicating that the nation is facing a public crisis in the mental health of children and adolescents. The National Action Agenda outlines goals and strategies to improve services for children and adolescents with mental and emotional disorders. NIMH along with other Federal agencies collaborated in the preparation of this report.

2002 – NIMH published a national conference report entitled "Mental Health and Mass Violence: Evidence-Based Early Psychological Intervention for Victims/Survivors of Mass Violence: A Workshop to Reach Consensus on Best Practices." While most people recover from a traumatic event in a resilient fashion, the report indicates that early psychological intervention guided by qualified mental health caregivers can reduce the harmful psychological and emotional effects of exposure to mass violence in survivors. NIMH and the Department of Defense, along with other Federal Agencies and the Red Cross collaborated in the preparation of this report.

2002 – Mental Health and Mass Violence: Evidence–Based Early Psychological Intervention for Victims/Survivors of Mass Violence Report released. Workshop co-sponsored by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, Veterans Affairs, Justice and the American Red Cross.

2003 – Real Men. Real Depression campaign launched to raise awareness about depression in men and create an understanding of the signs, symptoms and treatment options available. The campaign is designed to inspire other men to seek help after hearing from real men talking about their experiences with depression, treatment and recovery.

NIMH Legislative Chronology

1929 – P.L. 70-672 established two Federal "narcotics farms" and authorized a Narcotics Division within PHS.

1930 – P.L. 71-357 redesignated the PHS Narcotics Division to the Division of Mental Hygiene.

1939 – P.L. 76-19 transferred PHS from the Treasury Department to the Federal Security Agency.

1946 – P.L. 79-487, the National Mental Health Act, authorized the Surgeon General to improve the mental health of U.S. citizens through research into the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of psychiatric disorders.

1949 – NIMH was established April 15.

1953 – Reorganization plan #1 assigned PHS to the newly created Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

1955 – P.L. 84-182, the Mental Health Study Act, authorized NIMH to study and make recommendations on mental health and mental illness in the U.S. The act also authorized the creation of the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health.

1956 – P.L. 84-830, the Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act, provided for territorial treatment facilities for mentally ill individuals in Alaska.

1963 – P.L. 88-164, the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act, provided for grants for assistance in the construction of community mental health centers nationwide.

1965 – P.L. 89-105, amendments to P.L. 88-164, provided for grants for the staffing of community mental health centers.

1966 – P.L. 89-793, Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act of 1966, launched a national program for long-term treatment and rehabilitation of narcotic addicts.

1967 – P.L. 90-31, Mental Health Amendments of 1967 separated NIMH from NIH and raised it to bureau status in PHS.

1968 – NIMH became a component of the newly created Health Services and Mental Health Administration.

P.L. 90-574, Alcoholic and Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Amendments of 1968, authorized funds for the construction and staffing of new facilities for the prevention of alcoholism and the treatment and rehabilitation of alcoholics.

1970 – P.L. 92-211, Community Mental Health Centers Amendments of 1970, authorized construction and staffing of centers for 3 more years, with priority on poverty areas.

P.L. 91-513, Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, expanded the national drug abuse program by extending the services of federally funded community treatment centers to non-narcotic drug abusers as well as addicts.

P.L. 91-616, Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act, provided the resources needed to launch a comprehensive, all-out attack. Authorized the establishment of a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism within NIMH.

1972 – P.L. 92-255, Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act of 1972, provided that a National Institute on Drug Abuse be established within NIMH.

1973 – NIMH rejoined the NIH.

NIMH later became a component of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA).

1974 – P.L. 93-282, authorized the establishment of ADAMHA.

1978 – P.L. 95-622, the Community Mental Health Centers Extension Act of 1978.

1979 – P.L. 96-88, the Department of Education Organization Act, created the Department of Education and renamed DHEW the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

1980 – P.L. 96-398, the Mental Health Systems Act, reauthorized the community mental health centers program.

1981 – P.L. 97-35, the Omnibus Reconciliation Act, repealed P.L. 96-398 and consolidated ADAMHA's treatment and rehabilitation programs into a single block grant that enabled each State to administer allocated funds.

1983 – P.L. 98-24, Alcohol Abuse Amendments of 1983, consolidated the current authorization for ADAMHA and the institutes into a new title V of the PHS act.

1984 – P.L. 98-509, Alcohol Abuse, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Amendments, authorized funding for block grants for fiscal years 1985 through 1987, as well as extending the authorizations for Federal activities in the areas of alcohol and drug abuse research, information dissemination, and development of new treatment methods.

1991 – P.L. 99-550, PHS act, contained the requirement for State Comprehensive Mental Health Services Plan.

1992 – P.L. 102-321, the ADAMHA Reorganization Act, abolished ADAMHA, created the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and transferred NIMH research activities to NIH.

2000 – P.L. 106-310, The Children's Health Act of 2000, Title I Autism, instructed the Director of NIH to carry out this section through the Director of NIMH and in collaboration with other agencies that the Director determined appropriate. The Act expands, intensifies, and coordinates activities of the NIH with respect to research on autism, including the establishment of not less than 5 centers of excellence that conduct basic and clinical research into autism. The Act also mandated that the Secretary, DHHS establish an Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) to coordinate autism research and other efforts within the Department. Authority to establish the IACC was delegated to the NIH. The NIMH was designated the NIH lead for this activity.

NIMH Directors

In Office From
Robert H. Felix
1949 1964
Stanley F. Yolles
1964 1970
Bertram S. Brown
1970 1977
Herbert Pardes
1977 1984
Shervert H. Frazier
1984 1986
Lewis L. Judd
1988 1992
Frederick K. Goodwin
1992 1994
Rex William Cowdry (Acting)
1994 1996
Steven E. Hyman
1996 2001
Richard K. Nakamura (Acting)
2001 2002
Thomas R. Insel

NIMH Programs

Office of the Director

In March 1999, NIMH extramural components moved into the new Neuroscience Center at 6001 Executive Boulevard, Bethesda, MD. All components listed below are housed there, with the exception of the Division of Intramural Research Programs.

Office of Constituency Relations and Public Liaison

This Office plans and coordinates NIMH public liaison and outreach activities, including interactions with patient advocacy, professional, scientific and community based organizations with specific interests in the mission and/or programs of the NIMH. The program includes monitoring mental health and related legislation, issues, and events.

The Outreach Partnership Program is a nationwide outreach initiative that enlists state and national organizations to help bridge mental health research and clinical practice to inform the public about mental illness and mental disorders and to reduce the stigma often associated with mental illness.

Office of Diversity and Employee Advocacy Programs

This office was created in Spring 2000 to stress the Institute's strong commitment to affirmative action, equal employment opportunity, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and support of workforce diversity, Quality of Worklife, and community outreach activities. It supersedes the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity.

Office on AIDS

Coordinates all NIMH initiatives, programs, and activities related to mental health and HIV/AIDS, and consults with other NIH components as well as voluntary and professional organizations to meet AIDS-related public health goals.

Office on Neuroinformatics

This office supports research on and development of cutting-edge, computer-based tools and approaches to acquire, store, manipulate, analyze, integrate, synthesize, disseminate, and utilize information about the brain and behavior.

Office of Prevention

This office promotes NIMH research programs concerning the prevention of mental disorders and the promotion of mental health by developing, planning, executing, and assessing national programs in order to set Institute goals and priorities in areas such as AIDS, international activities, and training.

Office of Rural Mental Health Research

This office 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 in such areas. Also, the office coordinates related departmental research activities and related activities of public and nonprofit entities.

Office for Special Populations

This office develops and coordinates research policies and programs to assure increased emphasis on the mental health needs of women and minority populations; supports programs of basic and applied social and behavioral research on the mental health problems of women and minorities; studies the effects of discrimination on institutions and individuals; supports and develops research designed to eliminate institutional discrimination; and provides increased emphasis on the concerns of women and minority populations in the Institute's training, service delivery, and research programs.

An example of training programs sponsored by this office is the Career Opportunities in Research Education and Training (COR) Program. The COR Honors Undergraduate Program assists institutions with substantial enrollment of racial/ethnic minority students in training greater numbers of scientists as teachers and researchers in disciplines related to mental health.

The Supplements for Underrepresented Minorities in Biomedical and Behavioral Research Program consists of administrative supplements to existing NIMH research grants for research and salary support of minority high school students, undergraduate students, graduate research assistants, and junior level investigators. The purpose of the supplemental awards is to enhance the research capability of the minority student or faculty member and to provide opportunities for minority individuals to develop as independent, competitive researchers.

The Minority Research Infrastructure Support Program (M-RISP) provides grants to institutions with a substantial enrollment of racial/ethnic minority students for support of research projects related to mental health, enhancement of existing research infrastructure, and for advanced training of faculty. The program also allows individual investigators to conduct small grant research activities leading to successful applications for funding under regular research grant mechanisms.

Another program promotes reentry into biomedical and behavioral 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 attend to other family responsibilities.

Office of Communications, and Public Liaison

The Office of Communications and Public Liaison (OCPL), NIMH, contributes to the Institute's mission of improving the mental health of the Nation through dissemination of scientific findings emerging from research; and communication of information aimed at improving the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental and brain disorders. By demonstrating that these illnesses are real, common, and treatable, OCPL helps to ensure that the stigma attached to these conditions will be lessened and people who suffer from them will be more likely to seek needed treatment. Scientific communication mediums include the Institute's web site, which OCPL developed, enhances, and maintains. Information is provided on Institute activities, mental health research and mental disorders to a variety of audiences, including the media, health care professionals, and the public.

In addition to carrying out a wide range of communications programs, NIMH has a public liaison officer with responsibility for providing the public with easy access to the Institute's research activities and thus creating, in effect, a public voice in the Institute's deliberations on research directions, priorities, and strategic planning.

Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science (DNBBS)

This division is responsible for NIMH funding of extramural research grants in the areas of basic and clinical neuroscience, genetics, therapeutics development, and basic behavioral science. DNBBS also oversees NIMH support of research training and technology research and development, relevant to these areas. The goal of supporting this diverse research portfolio is to increase understanding of the etiology, treatment, and prevention of a broad spectrum of brain and behavioral disorders.

Behavioral Science Research Branch

Research supported by this branch concerns the biobehavioral, cognitive, personality, emotional and social processes that underlie behavioral functioning and development across the life span. In addition to standard experimental, correlational and longitudinal methods with human subjects, the branch supports behavioral-genetic, computational, and animal model approaches.

Behavioral and Integrative Neuroscience Research Branch

The mission of this branch is to support research on the brain mechanisms underlying cognition and behavior in functional organisms and through theoretical models, with a view to understanding how cognition/behavior develops. This knowledge is crucial for improved diagnosis and treatment of all disorders of cognition and behavior, including mental illness.

Clinical Neuroscience Research Branch

The mission of this branch is to support extramural research in the area of clinical neuroscience, with emphases on the molecular, cellular and neural systems substrates of the full spectrum of mental disorders, including schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, autism, and other brain disorders.

Molecular, Cellular, and Genomic Neuroscience Research Branch

This branch supports research on the elucidation of genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms underlying brain development, neuronal signaling, synaptic plasticity, the influence of hormones and immune molecules on brain function, drug discovery, and long-term actions of therapeutics for mental disorders.

Human Genetics and Genomic Resources Office

This Office supports research on the identification, localization, function, and expression patterns of genes that produce susceptibility to mental disorders, including autism and autism spectrum disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder or other related mood disorders, recurrent early-onset depression and other depressive disorders, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder or other anxiety disorders, panic disorder, schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders.

Research Training and Career Development Program

This Program fosters the training of new investigators and enhances the career development of basic and clinical neuroscientists as well as basic behavioral scientists.

Office of Translational and Career Development Program

The Office supports research centers that span and integrate different aspects of basic brain research, from molecules to systems. In addition, the Office supports research and development of scientific technologies related to brain and behavioral research, including software, hardware, and wetware.

Division of Services and Intervention Research (DSIR)

This division directs, plans, supports, and conducts programs of research, research demonstrations, resource development, and research dissemination in prevention and treatment interventions, services research, clinical epidemiology, and diagnostic and disability assessment. The division also provides biostatistical analysis and data management support for research studies.

Services Research and Clinical Epidemiology Branch

This branch plans, supports, and conducts programs of research, research training, career development, and resource development on organization, delivery, and financing of mental health services in various health care delivery settings; interventions to improve the quality and outcomes of treatment and rehabilitation services; and the clinical epidemiology of brain disorders.

Adult and Geriatric Treatment and Preventive Intervention Research Branch

This branch supports a program of research, research training, and career development focusing on treatment, prevention, and rehabilitation of mental disorders in adults, including older persons. Disorders studied include all mental and behavioral disorders. Interventions studied include pharmacologic, behavioral, and pshcyotherapeutic approaches.

Child and Adolescent Treatment and Preventive Intervention Research Branch

This branch supports a program of research, research training, and career development focusing on the treatment, prevention, and rehabilitation of mental disorders in children and adolescents. Disorders studied include all mental and behavioral disorders. Interventions studied include pharmacologic approaches, and behavioral and psychotherapeutic approaches.

Division of Mental Disorders, Behavioral Research and AIDS (DMDBA)

This division supports research and research training related to behavioral, developmental, and epidemiological studies on the causes of mental and behavioral disorders, on interventions to prevent the personal and social burden of these disorders, and on the causes, prevention, and treatment of HIV infection and AIDS.

Center for Mental Health Research on AIDS

The Center for Mental Health Research on AIDS supports studies concerned with developing and testing behavior-change and prevention strategies to reduce the further spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs); conducting interventions to prevent the consequences of HIV infection; identifying and addressing the behavioral issues in vaccine trials; identifying the role of couples, families, and communities in preventing and adapting to HIV/STDs; identifying the effects of HIV infection on the central nervous system (CNS) and the mechanisms underlying motor/cognitive dysfunctions; defining the clinical phenomena of HIV-related neuropsychological and neuropsychiatric disorders; developing therapeutic agents to prevent or reverse the effects of HIV on the CNS; and improving mental health services relevant to HIV infection and people with severe mental illness.

Adult Psychopathology and Prevention Research Branch

This branch supports research that focuses on identifying prevalence and risk factors for mental disorders across the adult life span; developing new approaches to the etiology and assessment of adult psychopathology and related functional impairment; clarifying the relations among psychological, biological, social, cultural, and environmental factors involved in adult mental health, illness, disability, and recovery; and translating the findings and methods of basic research into studies of the biobehavioral mechanisms of disorders and the development of new preventive, treatment, and rehabilitative interventions.

Developmental Psychopathology and Prevention Research Branch

This branch focuses on risk/protective factor identification; early social, emotional, and cognitive developmental processes leading to psychopathology or resilience; early manifestations and course of psychopathology in childhood and adolescence; and the translation of risk and developmental research into new prevention, early intervention, and treatment strategies. Studies may address modifiable and potent individual, social, cultural, and environmental factors and processes; critical dimensions of behavioral expression that confer risk for psychopathology, such as emotion regulation, impulse control, and executive function; and competing developmental models and alternative pathways to psychopathology or resilience.

Health and Behavioral Science Research Branch

This branch supports research on general medical illnesses and behavior and their relationship to mental disorders. Emphasis is on general medical illness and behavior and their relationship to mental disorders; individual, social, cultural, and illness factors influencing health decision-making, including adherence to treatment regimens; cognitive, emotive, social, cultural, and environmental factors that influence health care practitioners' service provision decisions; and the impact of mental illness stigmatization and ability or inability to give informed consent.

Division of Intramural Research Programs (DIRP)

This division 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 scientists. Many foreign and domestic guest researchers also contribute to the research effort of DIRP. Work is conducted primarily on the main campus of NIH in Bethesda, MD. A broad spectrum of adult and childhood psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and manic-depressive illness, are studied in patients at the NIH Clinical Center; hundreds of basic neuroscience projects examining many aspects of central nervous system structure and function are carried out in basic research labs on the NIH campus.

Behavior, both normal and pathological, is studied through various methods used to correlate changes in neuronal function with behavior and to identify and measure behavior's neurochemical and neurophysiological substrates.

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, single photon emission tomography, and functional magnetic resonance imaging, 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, re-uptake, 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 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, as well as studies of the regulation and action of receptors at the cellular level.

Genetic research includes molecular analyses of psychiatric and neurological disorders, pharmacogenetic as well as epidemiological and family studies. Data from these projects will aid in sorting out complex interactions between biological systems (i.e., central nervous system) and the environment that determine behavior. The Division includes two Programs – The Integrative Neuro-Immune Program, and the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program.

Basic research laboratories and clinical research branches include Research Services; Neuropsychiatry; Experimental Therapeutics; Biological Psychiatry; Clinical Psychobiology; Clinical Neuroscience; Clinical Neurogenetics; Behavioral Endocrinology; Cerebral Metabolism; Veterinary Medicine and Resources; Child Psychiatry; Clinical Brain Disorders; Systems Neuroscience; Brain and Cognition; Neuropsychology; Clinical Science; Cellular and Molecular Regulation; Neurochemistry; Biochemical Genetics; Genetics; Experimental Therapeutics and Pathophysiology; Molecular Imaging; Molecular Pathophysiology; Neurotoxicology; Geriatric Psychiatry; and independent sections in socioenvironmental studies, pharmacology, mouse behavioral genomics, biological rhythms, molecular neurobiology, and clinical and experimental neurophysiology.

Division of Extramural Activities

This division provides scientific peer review of applications for grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts, as well as all grant management services. Activities include research, fellowship, center, training, and cooperative agreement applications, and concept review for research and research development (R&D) contracts. Substantively, the division's review and management activities span neuroscience and behavioral science, epidemiology, treatment, prevention and services research. It also monitors the review and grant award process to ensure quality and conformance to policy.

In the past years, NIMH expanded the range of experts who review grant applications for intervention and services research by including individuals who have had experience with mental disorders, such as patients or family members, service providers, policymakers, and educators. The aim is to further ensure the public health relevance of funded grants.

The division also oversees National Advisory Mental Health Council activities, committee management services, and extramural policy oversight.

This page was last reviewed on June 21, 2005 .

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