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NINDS logo   National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Mission | Important Events | Legislative Chronology | Director | Divisions

Originally National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness. Name changed August 16, 1968, to National Institute of Neurological Diseases; October 24, 1968, to National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke; March 14, 1975, to National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke; and October 28, 1988, to present name.


The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is to reduce the burden of neurological disease - a burden borne by every age group, by every segment of society, by people all over the world. To this end, the Institute supports and conducts research on the healthy and diseased brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. Hundreds of disorders afflict the nervous system. Common killers and disablers such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, epilepsy, and autism are well known. Other disorders we study may be known only to the patients and families affected, their doctors, and scientists who look to rare disorders for help in understanding the brain as well as treating more common diseases.

With our mission in mind, the NINDS has identified the following overall goals. In the coming years NINDS will:

  • attack neurodegenerative disorders over the entire life span from birth to the last years of life.

  • harness the power of molecular genetics to understand neurological disorders, to define healthy function, and to develop better treatments.

  • unravel the complexities of information transfer within the brain and how the central nervous system communicates with all other major organ systems.

  • gain a greater understanding of brain mechanisms underlying higher mental functions and complex behaviors.

  • use remarkable new discoveries about early development to enhance repair and regeneration in the mature nervous system.

  • exploit new methods for studying how non-neuronal cells in the nervous system maintain the delicately balanced neural environment.

  • enhance our program in clinical research and epidemiology to develop more effective therapies and prevention strategies.

  • build the foundations for the neuroscience enterprise of the future.

  • exploit the unique environment of the NIH intramural program to create a model collaborative neuroscience community.

Important Events in NINDS History

1950 - On August 15 President Truman signed P.L. 81-692, establishing the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness.

1951 - NINDB received its first budget of $1,232,253.

1953 - The NINDB budget became a line item in the NIH budget.

1953-54 - An intramural program of clinical investigation was initiated, including medical neurology, surgical neurology, and electroencephalography. Training programs in neurology and ophthalmology were initiated.

1955 - Basic science training grants were initiated.

1956 - The intramural clinical investigations program was expanded to include work in ophthalmology.

1957 - Training programs in otolaryngology and pediatric neurology were begun.

Field investigations involving collaborative and cooperative clinical studies were begun and the initial phase of the Collaborative Perinatal Project was started.

1960 - The joint intramural basic research program of NINDB and NIMH was divided and organized into two basic research laboratory programs.

1961 - First program projects and clinical research centers in stroke and communicative disorders were supported.

1962 - Funds were appropriated for professional and technical information assistance. Training grants in neurosurgery and neuroradiology were initiated.

1963 - Developmental graduate training grants were initiated.

1965 - A head injury research program was established.

1966 - The stroke research program was expanded; additional grants for clinical research centers were awarded. An antiepileptic drug testing program was begun.

1967 - Vision outpatient research centers were established. A program of research in neural control mechanisms and prostheses was initiated.

1968 - The NINDS blindness program became the nucleus of the National Eye Institute. The institute was renamed the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke.

1969 - Research Building 36, dedicated by DHEW Secretary Robert H. Finch, was occupied by NINDS and NIMH research laboratories.

1971 - Programs in applied neurological research (epilepsy, head injury), infectious diseases, and biometry were added to the Collaborative and Field Research Division.

1973 - Two new communicative disorders programs were begun with establishment of a section on communicative disorders in the Collaborative and Field Research Division, and an intramural Laboratory of Neuro-Otolaryngology.

1974 - Laboratories for neuroimmunology and neuropharmacology were established.

1975 - NINDS was renamed the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke.

The institute reorganized into six units for intramural research, fundamental neurosciences, communicative disorders, neurological disorders, stroke and trauma, and extramural activities.

1976 - Dr. D. Carleton Gajdusek, chief, Laboratory of Central Nervous System Studies, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for work on atypical slow viruses.

1979 - A neuroepidemiology section and a section of neurotoxicology were established within the Intramural Research Program. NINCDS substantially expanded extramural support of research studies using positron emission tomography.

1982 - The institute's Neurological Disorders Program was replaced by two new program units: convulsive, developmental, and neuromuscular disorders and demyelinating, atrophic, and dementing disorders.

1984 - NINCDS established the Senator Jacob Javits Neuroscience Awards, which provide research grant support for up to 7 years in the basic and clinical neurosciences and communicative sciences.

A Laboratory of Neurobiology and a Laboratory of Experimental Neuropathology were established within the Intramural Research Program.

1986 - A Laboratory of Neural Regeneration and Implantation was established within the Intramural Research Program.

1987 - NINCDS programs were renamed divisions, reflecting major areas of research interest: communicative and neurosensory disorders; convulsive, developmental, and neuromuscular disorders; demyelinating, atrophic, and dementing disorders; fundamental neurosciences; stroke and trauma; extramural activities; and intramural research.

A Clinical Neuroscience Branch was established within the Division of Intramural Research.

1988 - The communicative disorders program became the nucleus of the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. NINCDS was renamed the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

1989 - On July 25 President Bush signed P.L. 101-58, declaring the 1990s the "Decade of the Brain."

1990 - A Stroke Branch was established within the Division of Intramural Research.

1998 - NINDS forms seven planning panels comprised of neuroscience leaders; panel members outline opportunities for research investment

1999 - NINDS publishes Neuroscience at the New Millennium: Priorities and Plans for the NINDS, Fiscal Years 2000-2001.

2001 - NINDS celebrates its 50th anniversary with a 2-day scientific symposium "Celebrating 50 Years of Brain Research: New Discoveries, New Hope."

NINDS Legislative Chronology

August 15, 1950 - Public Law 81-692 established NINDB "for research on neurological diseases (including epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis) and blindness."

August 16, 1968 - Public Law 90-489 renamed the NINDB the National Institute of Neurological Diseases.

October 24, 1968 - Public Law 90-636 changed the name of the NIND to the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke.

October 25, 1972 - Public Law 92-564 established a temporary National Commission on Multiple Sclerosis supported by NINDS.

March 14, 1975 - Part 8 of a DHEW Statement of Organization, Functions, and Delegations of Authority was amended to change the title of NINDS to the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke.

July 29, 1975 - Public Law 94-63 established two temporary commissions to be supported by NINCDS: Commission for the Control of Epilepsy and Its Consequences, and Commission for the Control of Huntington's Disease and Its Consequences.

October 28, 1988 - Public Law 100-553 changed the name of NINCDS to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

June 10, 1993 - Public Law 103-43 added language on Multiple Sclerosis research to the legislative mandate of the NINDS.

November 13, 1997 - Public Law 105-78, the Morris K. Udall Parkinson's Disease and Research Act, added language authorizing increased Parkinson's disease research and training, including research centers.

November 17, 2000 – Public Law 106-310, the Children's Health Act of 2000, amended the Public Health Service Act with regard to a wide range of issues affecting children's health. Specifically relevant to the NINDS mission, were authorizing provisions for the expansion of autism research, including research centers of excellence, and the establishment of an interagency Autism Coordinating Committee; the establishment of a Pediatric Research Initiative; the development of a pediatric research loan repayment program; the conduct of a national longitudinal study of environmental influences on children's health and development; the study of risk factors for childhood cancers, including malignant tumors of the central nervous system; and the support of research with respect to cognitive disorders and neurobehavioral consequences arising from traumatic brain injury; the expansion and coordination of muscular dystrophy research.

December 18, 2001 – Public Law 107-084, the Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research and Education Amendments of 2001, or the "MD-CARE Act," amended the Public Health Service Act to provide for the expansion and coordination of research with respect to various forms of muscular dystrophy, including the establishment of research centers of excellence and an interagency coordinating committee.

Biographical Sketch of NINDS Director Story C. Landis Ph.D.

Dr. Landis has been Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke since September 1, 2003. As Director, she oversees an annual budget of $1.5 billion and a staff of more than 900 scientists, physician-scientists, and administrators.

Dr. Landis received her B.A. in Biology from Wellesley College in 1967 and her master's degree (1970) and her Ph.D. (1973) from Harvard University. She held postdoctoral fellowships at the National Institute of Mental Health and Harvard Medical School and also held faculty positions at Harvard Medical School and Case Western Reserve University. At Case Western Reserve, she was responsible for the creation of a Department of Neurosciences. Under five years of her leadership, the program achieved worldwide acclaim and a reputation for excellence. In 1995, Dr. Landis joined the NINDS as Scientific Director and was responsible for the direction and excellence of research conducted in the Institute's intramural program.

Dr. Landis's own research is aimed at understanding how functional connections form in the developing nervous system. Starting with evidence of surprising plasticity and environmental influences obtained in cell culture systems, her work has focused on dissecting the cellular interactions that drive synapse formation in the peripheral nervous system and to on identifying the molecular mechanisms responsible.

Dr. Landis has received distinction as an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association, a Javits Neuroscience Investigator, and a MacKnight Senior Investigator, and as an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Landis has served on numerous scientific advisory committees including selection and review committees for the NIH and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 2002, she was named the President-Elect of the Society for Neuroscience.

The NINDS supports research by investigators in public and private institutions across the country, as well as by scientists working in its intramural laboratories and branches in Bethesda, Maryland. The Institute's mission is to reduce the burden of neurological disease -- a burden borne by every age group, by every segment of society, by people all over the world.

NINDS Directors

In Office From
Pearce Bailey
1951 1959
Richard L. Masland
1959 1968
Edward F. MacNichol, Jr.
September 1, 1968 1973
Donald B. Tower
May 31, 1974 February 1, 1981
Murray Goldstein
December 23, 1982 October 1, 1993
Patricia A. Grady (Acting)
September 1993 August 31, 1994
Zach W. Hall
September 1, 1994 December 31, 1997
Audrey S. Penn (Acting)
January 1, 1998 July 31, 1998
Gerald D. Fischbach
August 1, 1998 January 31, 2001
Audrey S. Penn (Acting)
February 1, 2001 August 31, 2003
Story C. Landis
September 1, 2003 Present

Major Divisions

The institute is organized into a division of extramural research and a division of intramural research.

Division of Extramural Research

The Division of Extramural Research plans and directs initiatives for grant and contract support for research, research training, and career development to assure maximum utilization of available resources in the attainment of NINDS objectives. Research activities include studies on: fundamental cellular, molecular, and systems neuroscience; developmental neurobiology; developmental disorders; neurogenetics; stroke; traumatic brain and spinal cord injury; neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease; brain tumors; development of artificial prosthetic devices to restore function to the damaged nervous system; convulsive disorders, including epilepsy; infectious disorders of the brain and nervous system, including AIDS; immune disorders of the brain and nervous system, including multiple sclerosis; disorders related to sleep mechanisms; and neuromuscular disorders.

In addition, the division maintains surveillance over developments in these program areas and assesses the national need for research on the cause, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders of the brain and nervous system. Program scientists also track technological development, the application of research findings, and research training and career development in these areas. In addition to determining program priorities and recommending funding levels for programs to be supported by grants and contracts, division scientists (a) collaborate with other institutes of the NIH on national research efforts related to these program areas, (b) prepare reports and analyses of national needs to assist NINDS staff and advisory groups in carrying out their responsibilities and in developing new areas of emphasis, and (c) consult with voluntary health organizations and with professional associations in identifying research needs and developing programs to meet these needs.

The Division of Extramural Research is organized into work groups known as clusters. The current operational clusters are:

  • Repair and Plasticity

  • Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience

  • Channels, Synapses, and Circuits

  • Neurodevelopment

  • Neural Environment

  • Neurodegeneration

  • Neurogenetics

  • Clinical Trials

Resources and information will move fluidly among the clusters, and new ones will be created and old ones abolished as science, technology, and resources dictate.

There are also three administrative branches in the extramural program devoted to support and coordination, a Scientific Review Branch, and an Office of Research Training and Career Development. Topics of special interest to each cluster are listed below. Many clinical and basic research problems are addressed collaboratively by members of several clusters.

Repair and Plasticity

  • To elucidate mechanisms of synapse formation.

  • To restore function in neurologically disabled individuals.

  • To encourage development of stem cell biology to repair the injured nervous system.

Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience

  • To promote understanding of the neural bases of cognition, emotion, and their interaction.

  • To identify risk factors for developmental cognitive disorders.

  • To encourage a broad analysis of the experience of pain.

  • To expand efforts in behavioral genetic studies of complex traits.

  • To develop better methods for assessing behavior and other neurological functions in the mouse as a useful model for human conditions.

  • To encourage research on brain circuits and motor control.

  • To expand research in sleep and rhythmicity.

Channels, Synapses, and Circuits

  • To promote further study of ion channel structure and function.

  • To emphasize the molecular bases of synaptic transmission.

  • To encourage new approaches to circuits analysis and focus attention on particular circuits of immediate medical relevance.


  • To promote better understanding of the processes of early development of the nervous system.

  • To better understand the influence of developmental stages on the outcome of insult or injury to the brain.

  • To promote understanding of the genetics, risk factors, pathophysiology, and potential therapies for neurological disorders in infancy and childhood, as well those that begin in early life and last into adulthood.

Neural Environment

  • To encourage research on normal functions of astrocytes, oligodendroglia and microglial cells, microvascular endothelia, and cells of the immune system within the nervous system.

  • To promote efforts to understand the blood-brain barrier in health, disease, and drug delivery.

  • To expand ongoing molecular analysis of CNS tumors.

  • To stimulate translational research on phenotype/genotype relations in glial diseases (such as brain tumors and multiple sclerosis).

  • To encourage research on the involvement of infectious agents in the development of neurological diseases (such as chlamydia infection in stroke, JC virus in brain tumor, and campylobacter jejuni in Guillain-Barré syndrome).

  • To promote studies of vascular mechanisms of neurological diseases, e.g., Alzheimer's disease, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, stroke, epilepsy, and trauma of the head, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves.

  • To promote studies of immune disorders of the nervous system and muscle.


  • To stimulate research on the mechanisms of neuron death and neurodegeneration underlying a wide range of neurodegenerative disorders, stroke, trauma, and infections.

  • To promote the development of advanced research technologies necessary for achieving new breakthroughs in neurodegeneration research (e.g., array technology for assessment of gene expression and high-throughput assays of biochemical and cellular process modulators).

  • To encourage the development of integrated national registries and population-based epidemiological studies of neurological disorders, in order to elucidate the natural history of neurodegeneration and to identify biomarkers for neurodegenerative disorders.


  • promote efforts to identify neurological disease genes

  • promote investigation of the mechanisms by which genetic mutations cause neurological disease

  • develop gene-based therapeutics for neurological disorders

  • develop resources for neurogenetic research

  • promote basic research in neurogenetics

Clinical Trials

  • To initiate and guide the development of phase III clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy of innovative treatments of neurological disorders and stroke.

  • To develop new scientific initiatives to stimulate translation of ideas from basic animal research to testing the safety and early indications of efficacy through phase I and II clinical trials.

  • To promote epidemiological studies of the natural history and early markers of neurological disorders and stroke, to elucidate the causative path leading to the disorders and to stimulate the search for new treatments and prevention strategies.

  • To provide oversight and serve as a resource to the Institute and to the investigators, to ensure proper level of patient safety monitoring and to maintain the scientific integrity of clinical trials.

  • To participate in the Institute's efforts to develop evidence-based clinical guidelines for physicians and patients.

  • To provide expertise in statistics and clinical trial design to the Institute and to clinical investigators.

Other Special Organizational Components

In addition to Clusters, the NINDS Division of Extramural Research includes several cross-Cluster organizational components that reflect key planning priorities, such as experimental therapeutics, technology development, translational research, and minority health and research. Highlighted programs include:

NINDS Technology Development

NINDS Technology Development develops grant and contract-supported programs that use, develop, support, and disseminate research technologies with broad applicability to neuroscience, and to support the discovery, development, testing, and manufacturing of drugs for treatment of neurological diseases. These programs include initiatives and collaborative agreements that support scientific advancements in the following areas:

  • Oligonucleotide and cDNA microarrays

  • Protein arrays and analyses

  • Data and resource sharing

  • High-throughput screening

  • Molecular-target drug development

  • Combinational chemistry

  • Anticonvulsant screening project (ASP)

  • Gene therapy

  • Animal models of disease

  • Small business innovation

Translational Research

One key planning area is in the field of translational research, which directs knowledge gained through basic science to potential new treatments for disease. Several new programs reinforce the NINDS commitment to this area of research.

Office of Minority Health and Research

The Office of Minority Health and Research plans, coordinates and directs research and research training programs to attract, retain and develop future minority neuroscience health and research professionals. The office also develops and implements long-term strategies to reduce the disease disparity of populations that are historically at increased risk for diseases and disorders of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nervous system.

Division of Intramural Research

A full description of the NINDS Division of Intramural Research can be found at

Additional information on NIH neuroscience programs, including programs sponsored by the NINDS, is available at

This page was last reviewed on June 21, 2005 .

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