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National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Mission | Important Events | Legislative Chronology | Director | Divisions

Originally National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness. Name changed 1968 to National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke; March 1975 to National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke; and October 1988 to present name.


Created by the U.S. Congress in 1950, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) has occupied a central position in the world of neuroscience for nearly 60 years.

The mission of NINDS is to reduce the burden of neurological disease—a burden borne by every age group, every segment of society, and people all over the world.

To accomplish this goal, the Institute supports and conducts basic, translational, and clinical research on the healthy and diseased nervous system; fosters the training of investigators in the basic and clinical neurosciences; and seeks better understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of neurological disorders.

The Institute's extramural program supports thousands of research project grants at institutions across the country. Institutional training grants and individual fellowships support hundreds of scientists in training and provide career awards that offer a range of research experience and support for faculty members at various levels. Scientists in the Institute's laboratories and clinics in Bethesda, Maryland, conduct research in the major areas of neuroscience and on many of the most important and challenging neurological disorders. NINDS staff researchers also collaborate with scientists in several other NIH Institutes.

This is a time of accelerating progress and increasing hope in the battle against brain disease. Advances in understanding the nervous system are beginning to pay off in the form of treatments for previously intractable problems such as spinal cord injury, acute stroke, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and Parkinson's disease, to name a few.

The NINDS vision is:

  • To lead the neuroscience community in shaping the future of research and its relationship to brain diseases.
  • To build an intramural program that is the model for modern collaborative neuroscience research.
  • To develop the next generation of basic and clinical neuroscientists through inspiration and resource support.
  • To seize opportunities to focus our resources to rapidly translate scientific discoveries into prevention, treatment, and cures.
  • To be the first place the public turns to for authoritative neuroscience research information.

Important Events in NINDS History

1950—On August 15 President Harry S. Truman signed Public Law 81-692, establishing the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness (NINDB).

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 began.

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

1960—The joint intramural basic research program of NINDB and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) was divided and organized into 2 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 began.

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

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

1969—Research Building 36—dedicated by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) 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 began with establishment of an intramural Laboratory of Neuro-Otolaryngology and a section on communicative disorders in the Collaborative and Field Research Division.

1974—Laboratories for neuroimmunology and neuropharmacology were established.

1975—NINDS was renamed the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke (NINCDS).

The Institute reorganized into 6 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 2 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 George H.W. 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 formed 7 planning panels comprising neuroscience leaders. Panel members outlined opportunities for research investment.

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

2000—The Parkinson's Disease Research Agenda was developed.

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

The Stroke Progress Review Group was created.

The Research Agenda for Epilepsy was developed.

2002—The Report of the Stroke Progress Review Group was published.

2004—The new National Neuroscience Research Center opened.

2007—The NINDS launched a new strategic planning process, in which it convened external panels on basic, translational, and clinical research and on neurological diseases.

2008—The NINDS Division of Extramural Research created an Office of Translational Research and an Office of Clinical Research, each led by an Associate Director.

2009-10—As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, NIH received $10.4 billion to stimulate biomedical research over a 2-year period. NINDSís share ($400 million) was used to fund existing and peer-reviewed projects, and to support trans-NIH programs that solicited innovative ideas and research projects. (For more details visit

2010—The new NINDS Strategic Plan: "Priorities and Plans for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke" was released.

2011—The NINDS Division of Extramural Research created an Office of Training, Career Development and Workforce Diversity, headed by a Chief, and an Office of Special Programs in Diversity, led by an Associate Director.

2012—A Pain Health Science Policy Advisor was established in the NINDS Office of the Director to serve as the Designated Federal Official for the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee and to support the expanding programs of the NIH Pain Consortium.

2013—Creation of an Office of Scientific Liaison in the NINDS Office of the Director.

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 Institute 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 HEW 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 2 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; the support of research with respect to cognitive disorders and neurobehavioral consequences arising from traumatic brain injury; and 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.

December 19, 2006—Public Law 109-416, the Combating Autism Act of 2006, amended the Public Health Service Act to expand and coordinate research activities with respect to autism spectrum disorders through the Centers of excellence and to establish the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.

October 8, 2008—Public Law 110-361, the Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research, and Education Amendments of 2008, reauthorizes programs at NIH with regard to muscular dystrophy, and designates the previously established research centers of excellence as Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Centers.

March 30, 2009—Public Law 111-11, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which includes text of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, authorizes the NIH Director to: coordinate paralysis research and rehabilitation activities at the NIH; establish consortia in paralysis research; and establish networks of clinical sites that will collaborate to design clinical rehabilitation intervention protocols and outcome measures on paralysis.

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 more than $1.6 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 5 years of her leadership, the program achieved worldwide acclaim and a reputation for excellence. In 1995, Dr. Landis joined NINDS as Scientific Director and was responsible for the direction and excellence of research conducted in the Institute's intramural program. In 2007 Dr. Landis was named Chair of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force.

Dr. Landis' own research was aimed at understanding how functional connections form in the developing nervous system. She received distinction as an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association, a Javits Neuroscience Investigator, and a McKnight 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 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, and was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2009.  She received the Morris K. Udall Award for Public Service from the Parkinson's Action Network in 2011.

NINDS Directors

Name In Office from To
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 funds grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts to support research, research training, and career development. The Division is organized into work groups known as "program clusters," organized around critical, cross-cutting scientific topics that hold great promise for advancing knowledge and reducing the burden of neurological disease. The current scientific clusters are: Repair and Plasticity; Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience; Channels, Synapses, and Circuits; Neurogenetics; Neural Environment; and Neurodegeneration. In addition, the Extramural Division includes the Office of Translational Research; the Office of Clinical Research; the Office of Training, Career Development, and Workforce Diversity; the Office of International Activities; and the Office of Special Programs in Diversity.

The Division monitors developments in these program areas; assesses national needs for research on the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders of the brain and nervous system; and pursues technological development, the application of research findings, and research training and career development. The Division also (a) determines program priorities, (b) collaborates with other institutes of the NIH on specific research efforts, (c) prepares 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 (d) consults with extramural scientists, voluntary health organizations, and professional associations in identifying research needs and developing programs to meet these needs.

The Division coordinates training of young investigators in all basic and clinical neurological research areas. This includes institutional and individual training programs as well as support through research career development awards and clinical investigator development awards.

Repair and Plasticity


  • To understand mechanisms of plasticity in the healthy nervous system and to explore implications for repair.
  • To develop interventions to modify the course of injury and disease progression, and improve functional outcome in individuals following injury to the nervous system.
  • To understand the course of degeneration and repair following spinal cord injury and brain injury on timescales ranging from seconds to years.
  • To develop interventions to permit spinal cord tracts to regrow past an injury site and establish functional connections distally.
  • To understand the role of endogenous neurogenesis and to promote development of stem cell biology to repair the nervous system.
  • To promote the development of neural prosthetic devices designed to restore function after neurological injury or disease.

Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience


  • To encourage and support research on higher brain functions and the neural systems that mediate them, including neural plasticity, memory, cognition, movement, attention, regulation of the wakefulness-sleep cycle, food intake, body weight, sensory perception, and neuropathic pain.
  • To support the understanding of the homeostatic regulation of cyclic and appetitive behaviors such as sleep, feeding, and drinking.
  • To support the understanding of peripheral and central mechanisms of neuropathic pain and pain perception, and the development of strategies to alleviate chronic pain.
  • To support and evaluate non-invasive functional imaging research such as PET (positron emission tomography) and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging).
  • To support and investigate the neural mechanisms of sensory and motor circuits that can be compromised by disease or injury.
  • To support and evaluate novel tools and methodologies for system approaches.
  • To support translational research of rehabilitative strategies and technology-driven therapeutics for neural dysfunction.

Channels, Synapses, and Circuits


  • To initiate and support basic and translational research on ion channels, transporters, and pumps implicated in neuronal function and disease.
  • To advance basic and translational research in mechanisms of synaptic transmission, development, and plasticity, including research on function and dysfunction of the neuromuscular junction.
  • To support basic, translational, and clinical studies in epilepsy and epileptogenesis.
  • To implement the epilepsy benchmarks (
  • To support research on the pathogenesis and treatment of inherited/acquired neuropathies, muscular dystrophies, and other neuromuscular disorders, including myasthenia gravis.
  • To promote the development of new methodologies for basic research, including genetic models, high-resolution structural studies of membrane proteins, optical recording, neuroimaging, and neuroinformatics tools.



  • To promote investigation of the etiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment of neurogenetic or neurological disorders.
  • To promote efforts to identify genes and susceptibility loci for neurological diseases.
  • To promote investigation of the mechanisms by which genetic variants cause or contribute to risks for neurological disease.
  • To develop gene-based assays, diagnostics, and therapeutics for neurological disorders.
  • To develop cutting-edge tools and resources for neurogenetic research.
  • To promote basic and translational research in neurogenetics and genomics.
  • To investigate the genetic basis of normal neural development, function, and perturbations that can lead to neurological disorders.
  • To promote and assist in the training of neuroscientists in molecular medicine.
  • To educate the scientific and lay communities in the ethical, legal, and social issues in neurogenetics.
  • To engage patient voluntary and advocacy groups in partnerships to promote research in neurogenetics.

Neural Environment


  • To promote basic and clinical research on mechanisms of disease in nervous system disorders such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain tumor, prion disease, CNS infections, and neuroAIDS.
  • To promote translational research, the development of diagnostics and of therapies that will prevent, arrest, or reverse neurological disorders such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, prion diseases, CNS infections, and neuroAIDS.
  • To encourage studies on the role and functions of glial cells and cell cross-talk in stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, prion diseases, CNS infections, and neuroAIDS.
  • To foster studies on vascular mechanisms of neurological disorders; vascular development in the central nervous system (CNS); and the role of microvascular endothelia, extracellular matrix, and cells of hematopoietic origin within the CNS.
  • To expand studies on the mechanisms of blood-brain and brain-CSF barrier functions and of cell migration (and/or trafficking) into the CNS in stroke, immune disorders, brain tumors, and CNS infections.
  • To encourage the development of animal models and assay systems that allow the study of neurological disorders such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, prion diseases, CNS infections, and neuroAIDS
  • To promote the study of biomarkers for vascular, tumorigenic, and immune diseases of the nervous system such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, prion diseases, CNS infections, and neuroAIDS.



  • To stimulate basic, translational, and clinical research on the mechanisms of neurodegeneration underlying a wide range of disorders including Parkinson's disease and parkinsonian disorders, vascular cognitive impairment, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and related motor neuron disorders, Huntington's disease, frontotemporal dementia, essential tremor, and Alzheimer's disease in partnership with the National Institute on Aging.
  • To promote the development of representative models of human neurodegenerative diseases to support discovery research and therapy development.
  • To encourage gene discovery and population-based genetic and epidemiological studies of neurodegenerative disorders in order to elucidate their causes and natural history, and to identify biomarkers.
  • To promote the development of advanced research technologies necessary for achieving new breakthroughs in neurodegeneration research.

Office of Translational Research


  • To facilitate the preclinical discovery and development of new therapeutics or diagnostics for neurological disorders.
  • To support research on promising candidate therapeutics and medical devices required to secure Investigational New Drug (IND) and Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) applications to the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • To design, implement, and manage research infrastructure activities that support translational research.
  • To support translational neuroscience projects by small businesses.
  • To support ongoing trans-NIH translational research programs including those within the NIH Roadmap, the NIH Blueprint, and NIH Biodefense programs.

Office of Clinical Research


  • To promote the development of clinical interventions for neurological disorders and stroke.
  • To stimulate the translation of findings in the laboratory to clinical research and clinical interventions.
  • To ensure measures for protection of human subjects and safety monitoring.
  • To encourage innovation in clinical research methodology.
  • To support the development of neurology clinical researchers with training in biostatistics, epidemiology, and clinical trial methodology.
  • To promote research into health disparities in neurological disorders.

Office of Training, Career Development and Workforce Diversity

The Office of Training, Career Development, and Workforce Diversity (TCDWD) supports the training of students (high school, undergraduate and graduate), postdoctoral fellows, clinician-scientists, and faculty across NINDS research areas. The Office develops training opportunities and provides programmatic support through grant awards, local and national workshops, and direct consultation with applicants and awardees.

TCDWD also creates and supports programs to prepare diverse students and fellows to pursue research careers in neuroscience. Specific programs seek to enhance diversity of the neuroscience workforce by supporting individuals from underrepresented ethnic/racial minority groups or disadvantaged backgrounds, individuals with disabilities, and individuals re-entering the biomedical research workforce.

Office of International Activities


  • To identify significant global health issues as they relate to neurological disorders and stroke.
  • To develop creative approaches that promote international research in the neurosciences.
  • To stimulate international activities with other NIH Institutes and Centers, other domestic and foreign government agencies, and non-governmental organizations.
  • To encourage international neuroscience collaborations, training, and capacity building through grants, short-term travel supplements, and international conferences.
  • To coordinate bilateral and multilateral activities under agreements between the U.S. and other countries.

Office of Special Programs in Diversity

The Office of Special Programs in Diversity (OSPD) creates and implements programs that provide a diverse, inclusive, and highly engaged research workforce to conduct NINDS-funded research. To achieve the mission, OSPD supports ongoing and designs new programs that increase research faculty development, improve research infrastructure, and promote innovative approaches to enhance diversity through partnership with academic research institutions and diverse communities.

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 last reviewed on April 2, 2014

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