Institutes and Research Divisions
National Institute of Neurological
Disorders and Stroke


The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke conducts, fosters, coordinates, and guides research on the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the neurological disorders, and stroke, and supports basic research in related scientific areas.

Provides grants-in-aid to public and private institutions and individuals in fields related to its areas of interest, including research project, program project, and research center grants.

Operates a program of contracts for the funding of research and research support efforts in selected areas of institute need.

Provides individual and institutional fellowships to increase scientific expertise in neurological fields.

Conducts a diversified program of intramural and collaborative research in its own laboratories, branches, and clinics.

Collects and disseminates research information related to neurological disorders.


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 electro-encephalography. 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 1990's the "Decade of the Brain."

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


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--P.L. 100-553 changed the name of NINCDS to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Director's of NINDS

NameDate of Birth Dates of Office
Pearce Bailey190219511959
Richard L. MaslandMar. 24, 191019591968
Edward F. MacNichol, Jr.1918Sept. 1, 19681973
Donald B. Tower
May 31, 1974Feb. 1, 1981
Murray Goldstein
Dec. 23, 1982Oct. 1, 1993
Patricia A. Grady (Acting)
September 1993Aug. 31, 1994
Zach W. Hall
September 1, 1994

Biographical Sketch of NINDS Director

Zach W. Hall, Ph.D.

Dr. Hall was appointed NINDS director on September 1, 1994. He came to the institute from the University of California, where he was Lange professor and chair of the department of physiology and head of the biomedical sciences training program.

Within his own area of interest, he has made fundamental contributions to the investigation of the neuromuscular junction. He is the author and editor of An Introduction to Molecular Neurobiology, a widely used textbook, and has published more than 100 original papers and reviews in scientific journals. He is also a founding editor of Neuron, a leading journal of cellular and molecular neurobiology.

Dr. Hall's numerous professional activities include membership on the medical advisory board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and participation in the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. He is a member of the Society for Neuroscience and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among other professional groups.

He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1994 and has received many honors in his field, including being named the 1994 Alexander Forbes lecturer at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. He has twice won the prestigious Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award, a 7-year grant awarded by the NINDS to distinguished investigators who have a record of substantial contributions at the cutting edge of neurological science.

Dr. Hall received his undergraduate degree in English from Yale University in 1958 and his Ph.D. in biochemistry (medical sciences) from Harvard University in 1966. From 1966 to 1968 he was a fellow in biochemistry at Stanford University School of Medicine. From 1968 until moving to UCSF in 1976 as professor of physiology and head of the new neuroscience program, he was on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School department of neurobiology.


Major Divisions

The institute is organized as six divisions: convulsive, developmental, and neuromuscular disorders; demyelinating, atrophic, and dementing disorders; fundamental neurosciences; stroke and trauma and a division of extramural activities for support and coordination. A division of intramural research conducts laboratory and clinical research in NIH laboratories.

Division of Convulsive, Developmental, and Neuromuscular Disorders

The division stimulates and supports wide-ranging research on neurological illnesses, including disorders of early and adult life, epilepsy, neuromuscular disorders, and sleep.

The Developmental Neurology Branch

Supports research on the neurobiology of developmental disorders of children, including cerebral palsy and other motor disorders, mental retardation and learning disorders, autism and behavioral disorders, and birth defects and genetic disorders affecting the central nervous system. In addition, the branch supports research on neuromuscular disorders including the muscular dystrophies, myasthenia gravis, and the peripheral neuropathies.

The Epilepsy Branch

Encourages research to prevent epilepsy and improve its diagnosis and treatment. Research is supported on convulsive and other paroxysmal disorders of the nervous system, including narcolepsy and other disorders of sleep. The branch administers an extensive antiepileptic drug development and monitoring program.

Division of Demyelinating, Atrophic, and Dementing Disorders

The division supports basic and clinical research relating to the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of a broad scope of neurological disorders of adults and the aged. Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are division responsibilities, as are demyelinating disorders such as multiple sclerosis.

In addition, research is funded on infectious diseases, including "slow virus" diseases, encephalitis, meningitis, and neurological aspects of AIDS. Biological research emphasizing neuroendocrinology and the neurological basis of pain is also supported.

Research activities include studies of the physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, anatomy, pathology, genetics, and epidemiology of these diseases and related conditions in humans and in animal models.

Division of Fundamental Neurosciences

This division places special emphasis on studies of the neurophysiology of cognitive processes, particularly those that can be studied at the neuronal level. Another area involves investigation of somatic-autonomic mechanisms of neuronal interaction. Research on nerve receptors, especially their isolation and purification, has made possible many important experimental and clinical studies. An area of increasing research activity involves the interrelationships between the nervous system and the immune system, neuroimmunomodulation.

Another major area of research interest is central nervous system plasticity--its ability to drop or modify old connections, form new ones, and reshape neural networks. Local circuits served by short-axon or axonless neurons have been thought of as comprising a "second" nervous system which might some day be made to modulate central nervous system activity.

An activity supported largely by research contracts is the development of neural prostheses--devices that use electrical stimulation to replace, modify, or extend function in neurologically impaired people. This research has yielded motor prostheses to restore hand and arm function in paralyzed individuals. Potential new prostheses presently being investigated include urinary bladder control implants based on microstimulation of the sacral spinal cord and a visual prosthesis for the blind, which utilizes microelectrodes in the visual cortex.

Division of Stroke and Trauma

The division supports basic and clinical research on stroke, injury to the head and spinal cord, and cerebral ischemia. The division also funds studies of chronic pain, tumors of the central nervous system, and nerve regeneration. Attention is given to new imaging techniques--positron emission tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, near-infrared spectroscopy, ultrasound, and computerized axial tomography--that allow precise, noninvasive anatomic and metabolic imaging of the brain, a major tool for studying the consequences of stroke and nervous system trauma.

Stroke research encompasses all aspects of cerebrovascular disorders. Of high priority are investigations into the causes and neurological consequences of stroke, cerebral edema, cerebral aneurysms, and arteriovenous malformations and the significance of the timing of treatment after a stroke has occurred. The division supports clinical trials that evaluate the efficacy of surgical and medical therapy in symptomatic as well as asymptomatic patients. Pilot studies are being conducted on procedures for stroke treatment and evaluation.

The division encourages research on injury to the head, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. Major goals are to find ways to promote regeneration of damaged nerve tissue and to restore function after injury. Toward that end, the division supports studies of neural plasticity, trophic factors that promote nerve growth, control of mitogenesis, therapeutic drugs, and nerve tissue implants.

Tumor research focuses on how neoplasms of nervous and supporting tissue affect the structure and function of the nervous system. Treatment of tumors depends on understanding certain physiological processes, which are particular subjects of research. A key area under investigation is blood flow and its effect on delivery of therapeutic agents to the tumor.

Division-supported studies of pain emphasize the clinical aspects of headache, neck and back pain, and other chronic problems. Some studies focus on neuro-surgical procedures for relieving pain. Others evaluate alternative pain treatments: acupuncture, electroanalgesia, spinal manipulation, psychotherapy, biofeedback, and hypnosis. Drugs currently being tested include narcotic drugs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory analgesics, and polypeptide analgesics such as the enkephalins and endorphins. The division also encourages research on better ways to measure and assess clinical pain.

Division of Extramural Activities

The division provides administrative support and coordination for the institute's research grant, research training, and research contract activities. The division directs and carries out scientific and technical merit review of proposals for research contracts, program projects, clinical research centers, special research grants such as multi-institutional clinical trials, and career development and research training. Management services for research grants and contracts are provided.

The division coordinates training and career development of young investigators. Opportunities include institutional and individual training awards as well as support through research career development awards, awards for reentry into the neurological sciences, and an integrated clinical and research career development program for physicians that begins during residency.


NINDS Appropriations -- Grants and Direct Operations
[Amounts in thousands of dollars]

Total Grants
Direct Operations
19543,354 1,1464,500
1962 56,24014,57270,812
1982 198,17667,725265,901
1Excludes funds for blindness, established as a separate appropriation “National Eye Institute” in 1970.

Division of Intramural Research

The division conducts basic and clinical research in neurological and related disciplines. Notable achievements have included drug therapies for debilitating neurological diseases such as parkinsonism and new techniques to help scientists better understand how the brain and nervous system function. Major research advances in neurovirology, neurochemistry and neuroimmunology have also come from the division.

NINDS scientists continue to explore central nervous system disorders such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease that appear to be slow infections caused by transmissible viruslike agents. These agents are unique in some respects, but in others exhibit classical viral properties. Research focuses on delineating the agents' chemical, biological and genetic nature, and on learning the nature of disease pathogenesis.

Inherited disorders of lipid metabolism such as Gaucher's, Niemann-Pick, Fabry's, Krabbe's, and Tay-Sachs are studied. This work includes biochemical and diagnostic studies, carrier identification, and genetic counseling. Studies on the molecular basis of the diseases have reached a new frontier enzyme replacement therapy has been successfully developed for patients with Gaucher's. Gene replacement is also being explored for patients with this and other metabolic disorders.

Many research projects in computed tomography advance the clinical applications of the technique as well as provide scientists with a wealth of valuable research data. In other imaging work, studies with the PET scanner have shown a relationship between glucose uptake and brain tumor growth. This scanning technique allows scientists to obtain axial transverse or coronal images of the brain. It also provides dynamic functional data such as rates of glucose consumption in different parts of the brain measurements of the storage, degradation, and turnover of radioactively tagged metabolites. Functional magnetic resonance imaging is a new technique being used to study brain activity.

In the Medical Neurology Branch's human motor control section focuses on how the brain controls voluntary movement and how these processes become deranged with different movement disorders. Recent advances have been made in understanding of focal dystonia and brain plasticity. The neuromuscular diseases section has made recent important observations on postpolio syndrome, neuromuscular disorders in AIDS, polymyositis, and neuropathies associated with paraproteinemia. The cognitive neuroscience section conducts innovative research on human cognitive processes such as planning, memory, and object recognition and investigates how these processes become impaired in the presence of neurological disease or trauma. A clinical neurogenetics unit has been formed.

The Stroke Branch explores the mechanisms by which stroke risk factors operate and analyzes mechanisms of neuronal ischemic damage at physiologic and molecular levels. The goal of these studies is to improve the prevention and treatment of human cerebrovascular disease. A clinical stroke research program is integrated with the basic stroke research program.

A major goal of research in the Clinical Neuroscience Branch research focuses on amine neurotransmitter mechanisms in the brain and peripheral autonomic nervous system, and on neurotransmitter function and metabolism in various neurological disorders. In addition, the section studies how neurotransmitters and other factors regulate the synthesis of neurotrophic factors, as well as systems in which neurotransmitters, in particular neuropeptides, can function as neurotrophic factors.

Exploring the design, conduct, and analysis of experimental or observational studies of the nervous system is the work of the Experimental Therapeutics Branch seeks to develop improved pharmaco-therapies for neurologic diseases. At the molecular level, scientists are working to characterize central transmitter receptors and information transduction processes as well as to develop pharmaceutical approaches to the selective regulation of gene expression within the central nervous system. At the systems level, studies focus on basal ganglia function especially in relation to dopamine receptor mechanisms and the effect of drugs that influence motor behavior. At the clinical level, investigators attempt to elucidate pathophysiologic mechanisms and develop novel pharmaceutical interventions for neurodegenerative disorders that impair motor and cognitive function.

The Neuroimaging Branch focuses it research on brain tumors, movement disorders, and stroke. The research tools used are: 1) positron emission tomography to assess the rate of glucose utilization in brain tumors and cerebral blood flow in ischemia and 2) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) to assess diffusion and perfusion (MRI) and levels of various metabolites (MRS) in brain tumors and cerebral ischemia, and brain iron distribution in normal controls, as well as in patients affected by movement disorders (primarily Parkinson's disease and parkinsonism).

* 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; October 28, 1988, to present.