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National Institute on Aging (NIA)
NIA was established in 1974 to improve the health and well-being of older adults through research. It conducts and supports genetic, biological, behavioral, social, and economical research on aging and the challenges and needs of older adults. NIA is at the forefront of scientific discovery about the nature of healthy aging to extend the healthy, active years of life. It is also the lead federal agency for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias research.
NIA supports scientific initiatives and innovation at universities, medical centers, and research institutes across the U.S. and around the world; conducts research at its scientific laboratories in Baltimore and Bethesda, Maryland; and maintains an active communications and outreach program to share knowledge and disseminate information to the broader research community and to the public.
NIA’s work has led to important scientific discoveries about the aging process, age-related diseases and conditions, and the needs of the growing older adult population.
December 2, 1971 — The White House Conference on Aging recommends the creation of a separate National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health.
May 31, 1974 — Public Law 93-296 authorizes the establishment of a National Institute on Aging and mandates the Institute develop a national comprehensive plan to coordinate the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (succeeded by the Department of Health and Human Services) involvement in aging research.
October 7, 1974 — The National Institute on Aging is established.
April 23, 1975 — First meeting of the National Advisory Council on Aging is held.
1984 — NIA funds Alzheimer's Disease Centers, where researchers at medical institutions nationwide focus on prevention and treatment while improving care and diagnosis.
1986 — Per congressional direction, NIA funds the Federal Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, a coordinating organization made up of more than 35 Federal agencies.
November 14, 1986 — P.L. 99-660, section 501-503, authorizes NIA's Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center as part of a broad program to conduct research and distribute information about Alzheimer's disease to health professionals, patients and their families, and the general public.
November 4, 1988 — P.L. 100-607 establishes the Geriatric Research and Training Centers, renamed the Claude D. Pepper Older American Independence Centers in 1990 and charged with conducting research on diseases that threaten independent living.
1991 — NIA sets up the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study, an ongoing consortium of academic medical centers and others to facilitate clinical trials research.
1992 — NIA and the University of Michigan begin the Health and Retirement Study, which follows more than 20,000 people at 2-year intervals, providing data from pre-retirement to advanced age to enable multidisciplinary study of the causes and course of retirement.
1993 — The first Edward Roybal Centers for Research on Applied Gerontology are authorized, focusing on translational research to convert basic and clinical findings into programs that improve the lives of older people and their families.
NIA launches the Longevity Assurance Genes initiative, an interactive network of funded researchers looking for genetic clues to longevity, using a variety of organisms such as C. elegans, Drosophila and yeast.
1994 — The first Demography of Aging Centers are funded to provide research on health, economics and aging and to make more effective use of data from several national surveys of health, retirement and long-term care.
The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation is launched to characterize in diverse populations the biological and psychosocial influences related to the transition to menopause.
1995 — NIA’s Nathan Shock Centers of Excellence in Basic Biology of Aging are established to further the study of the basic processes of aging.
1996 — NIA introduces Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute on Aging, providing encouragement and evidence-based guidance specifically for older adults.
1997 — The Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research are funded to investigate the variability of health differences experienced across racial and ethnic groups, as well as the mentoring of new scholars in health disparities research.
2000 — NIA distributes established mouse cDNA microarray/clone set containing more than 15,000 unique genes to 10 designated academic centers worldwide.
2001 — In a unique private-public partnership, NIA joins the Osteoarthritis Initiative to bring together resources and commitment to the search for biological markers of osteoarthritis.
NIA and the Icelandic Heart Association announce collaboration on a vast study on the interactions of age, genes and the environment. The collaboration extends 34 years of data on the health of 23,000 Icelandic residents into the new millennium.
2003 — NIA and the American Federation for Aging Research — in collaboration with the John A. Hartford Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies and Staff Foundation — establish a public-private partnership to support clinically trained junior faculty to pursue careers in aging research.
2004 — NIA launches the Longevity Consortium, a network of investigators from several large-scale human cohort studies working in collaboration with individual basic biological aging researchers to facilitate the discovery, confirmation and understanding of genetic determinants of healthy human longevity.
NIA, in conjunction with other federal agencies and private companies and organizations through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, leads the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative.
NIA launches Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span, a multidisciplinary community-based, longitudinal epidemiologic study examining the influences and interaction of race and socioeconomic status on the development of age-associated health disparities among socioeconomically diverse African Americans and whites in Baltimore.
2006 — NIA leads the NIH conference “AD: Setting the Research Agenda a Century after Auguste D,” a conclave assessing the state of current Alzheimer's disease research and the most promising routes to progress.
2007 — U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sponsors the Summit on Global Aging in collaboration with NIA to call attention to challenges and opportunities worldwide from population aging.
2008 — NIA convenes a Biology of Aging Summit to review its research portfolio, identify areas of opportunity, and facilitate formulation of comprehensive research plans for the future.
Longitudinal Study of Aging is expanded to examine to include Insights into the Determinants of Exceptional Aging and Longevity (IDEAL). IDEAL is a sub-study of the Baltimore function in late life to prevent disease and disability in a small but growing segment of the aging population.
NIA celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA). Launched in 1958, the BLSA is the most comprehensive and longest running longitudinal examination of human aging in the world.
2009 — NIA collaborates with HBO Documentary Films on The Alzheimer’s Project, an Emmy Award winning, multi-platform (television, web, DVD and print) public health series.
2011 — NIA launches the Go4Life campaign with public and private partners from a variety of aging, fitness and provider organizations. The goal is to promote exercise and physical activity nationwide for people 50 and older.
NIA and the Alzheimer’s Association lead an effort to update diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer's disease to reflect the full spectrum of the disease, marking the first time in 27 years clinical and research criteria are changed.
The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) is signed into law. NAPA requires a coordinated national effort to find ways to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and to improve care and services. NIH, represented by NIA, participates in the federal Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services.
NIA leads the formation of the Trans-NIH GeroScience Interest Group. The group promotes discussion, sharing of ideas, and coordination of activities within the NIH research community, working on mechanisms underlying age-related changes, including those which could lead to increased disease susceptibility.
2012 — HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announces the NAPA-required National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease. NIA plays a critical role in developing the first goal of the plan, which is to Effectively Treat or Prevent Alzheimer’s by 2025.
The NIA Intramural Research Program is reorganized to recognize new paradigms in the field of aging research. The program now integrates labs and resources, bringing together those who share similar research interests from different vantage points.
NIA organizes the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit 2012: Path to Treatment and Prevention. Some 500 researchers and advocates attend the meeting, which results in guidelines aimed at advancing Alzheimer’s disease research.
NIA launches the International Alzheimer’s Disease Research Portfolio. Designed in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association, the database captures the full spectrum of research investment and resources and enables public and private funders of Alzheimer’s research to share and review funding data.
NIA leads development of the NIH Toolbox for Neurological and Behavioral Function, which offers researchers a free set of brief tests to assess cognitive, sensory motor and emotional function in toddlers to older adults.
2013 — NIA hosts the Robert N. Butler Memorial Lecture to honor its founding director, Robert N. Butler, M.D., (1927-2010) who put in place the rationale and organization for a broad program of basic, biomedical, social and behavioral research that remains at the core of NIA’s efforts. NIA grantee Ronald D. Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic presented the lecture, focusing on Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Butler’s research priority.
The NIA Summer Institute on Aging Research is renamed the Butler-Williams Scholars Program in honor of NIA’s first two directors — the late Robert N. Butler, M.D., and T. Franklin Williams, M.D., whose tenures at NIA focused on developing a diverse and dedicated research workforce in aging.
NIA, with other institutes and the private sector, cosponsors the Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias: Research Challenges and Opportunities Summit, led by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The workshop focused on such conditions as Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia.
The Trans-NIH Geroscience Interest Group (GSIG) hosts the Advances in Geroscience: Impacts on Healthspan and Chronic Disease Summit. With NIA leadership, GSIG organized and co-sponsored this conference with the Alliance for Aging Research and the Gerontological Society of America, with additional private sector support provided through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH).
NIH, with NIA leadership, leads U.S. participation in a new international effort to address Alzheimer’s disease research and care. NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., and NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D., were part of a delegation attending the G-8 Dementia Summit in London, the goal of which was to develop a coordinated global strategy to address the growing global burden of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
2014 — NIA’s 40th anniversary is celebrated at the Gerontological Society of America annual meeting in Washington, DC. A symposium, From Cells to Society: NIA at 40 — Past, Present, and Future, commemorated the Institute’s first four decades and considered the future of research on aging.
The Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) is launched. A groundbreaking collaboration among NIH, FDA, 10 biopharmaceutical companies, and several non-profits, the project is designed to transform the current model for developing new diagnostics and treatments by jointly identifying and validating promising biological targets of disease. NIA leads the AMP Alzheimer’s disease component.
NIH and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) join forces to support a clinical trial to test effective, evidence-based, individually tailored interventions to prevent fall-related injuries. The award, supported by the NIA and PCORI as part of the Falls Injuries Prevention Partnership, is expected to total some $30 million over a five-year project. This study aims to integrate proven falls reduction strategies into a cohesive intervention that can be adopted by many health care systems.
2015 — NIA leads the NIH development of the first Professional Judgment Budget for Alzheimer’s disease. Mandated by Congress to inform legislators of the strategy and resources needed to meet research goals of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, this “bypass budget” suggests the amount of additional funds needed in Fiscal Year 2017 to accelerate the pace of discovery leading to prevention or treatment of Alzheimer’s by 2025.
September is designated as Go4Life Month in collaboration with the White House Conference on Aging. The designation spotlights the importance of physical activity and exercise for older adults and energizes partnerships and activities related to this important health campaign, featuring events with the U.S. Surgeon General, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, and other national, state and local partners.
2016 — The Trans-NIH GeroScience Interest Group with essential collaboration and support from the New York Academy of Sciences, American Federation of Aging Research, and Gerontological Society of America, developed the “Disease Drivers of Aging: 2016 Advances in Geroscience Summit”, at the request of the research community. The focus was on how chronic diseases – specifically cancer, HIV/AIDS and diabetes – affect biological aging.
2017 — NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D., presented at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, in Davos Switzerland on “Curing Alzheimer’s: The Research Imperative.”(link is external)
NIH launched the Alzheimer's Disease Research Implementation Milestone Database , a user-friendly web-based tool to track NIH funding initiatives and activities, targeting milestones aimed at achieving National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease ultimate research goal.
NIA and the McKnight Brain Research Foundation, with support from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, convened the Cognitive Aging Summit III. This scientific meeting was built upon priorities and research directions identified at two previous Cognitive Aging Summits, held in 2007 and 2010 respectively.
2018 — NIA facilitated the first National Research Summit on Care, Services, and Supports for Persons with Dementia and Their Caregivers. The summit focused on the research needed to develop, evaluate, implement and disseminate comprehensive care, service and support for people with dementia, their families and other caregivers.
The National Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Research, Care, and Services issued a final report(link is external) from the first National Research Summit on Care, Services, and Supports for Persons with Dementia and Their Caregivers.
The 2018 NIH Alzheimer's Research Summit featured progress toward achieving the Alzheimer’s disease research implementation milestones and to continue development of an integrated multidisciplinary research agenda necessary to enable precision medicine for Alzheimer’s.
2019 — NIA’s 45th anniversary is celebrated at the Gerontological Society of America annual meeting in Austin, Texas. A symposium, Strength in Age: Harnessing the Benefits of NIA’s 45 Years, commemorated the Institute’s landmark achievements.
NIA launched the Alzheimer's & Dementia Outreach, Recruitment & Engagement Resources (ADORE) website to support the recruitment and retention of participants in clinical trials and studies on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. ADORE resources include recruitment plans, communication materials, toolkits and guides, videos, and related research articles.
NIA released Together We Make the Difference: National Strategy for Recruitment and Participation in Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Clinical Research with co-facilitation by the Alzheimer’s Association and many other organizations and experts.
The third Geroscience Summit, organized by the trans-NIH Geroscience Interest Group, provide a forum for novel interactions between disease-focused professional societies and foundations, and the community of researchers and practitioners of geroscience.
2020 — NIA, in collaboration with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), announced a new Intramural Research Program Center for Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias (CARD). NIH will open its CARD laboratories on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2022.
In response to increased awareness of injustices in U.S. society, the NIA director and deputy director blogged on Combatting racial inequality in aging research.
The Dementia Care, Caregiving, and Services Research Summit Virtual Meeting Series took place July 10 and 21, and August 13, 2020. It focused on a major priority area for NIA: research with and for people with dementia and their caregivers. Participants shared individual perspectives on critical scientific gaps and opportunities to inform NIH research priorities. Input may also inform the efforts of other government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and advocacy groups.
NIH releases the Fiscal Year 2022 professional judgement budget for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (AD/ADRD) research Leading the Charge: Expanding Collaborative, Cross-Disciplinary Research for the Prevention, Treatment, and Care of Dementia.
2021 — NIA releases the Fiscal Year 2023 professional judgment budget for AD/ADRD research Transforming Research: To Prevent, Detect, Treat, and Provide Better Care for Dementia.
NIA hosted the Alzheimer’s Research Summit: Path to Precision Medicine for Treatment and Prevention, April 19-22, 2021. Participants included leading scientists and other innovators, public health advocates, and other stakeholders who identified gaps and opportunities toward the goal of precision medicine for Alzheimer’s and related dementias prevention and treatments.
NIA’s Imbedded Pragmatic Alzheimer's disease and related dementias Clinical Trials (IMPACT) Collaboratory researchers track adverse events related to COVID-19 among people who are older adults or frail or who have dementia.
NIA continued to help advance the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx®) initiative to speed innovation in the development, commercialization, and implementation of technologies for COVID-19 testing.
NIA relaunched Alzheimers.gov, which provides federal government information and resources on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, including Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal disorders, and vascular dementia.
2022 — NIH officially opened the Roy Blunt Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Research (CARD) intramural laboratories on the NIH main campus in Bethesda, Maryland.
NIA helped mark the 10th anniversary of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, which arose from the National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA). Major scientific accomplishments have included illuminated genetics, improvement in Alzheimer’s disease research models, expanded biomarkers, and novel drug targets and therapies.
NIA also commemorated the 10th anniversary of the NIH-wide Geroscience Interest Group (GSIG). This group consists of program officials and scientists across NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices who share an interest in the latest advances in this emerging field of research.
Biographical Sketch of NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D.
Richard J. Hodes, M.D., is the Director of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He has served in this position since 1993.
NIA was established to improve the health and well-being of older adults through research. It conducts and supports basic, clinical, social, and behavioral research on aging and the special problems and needs of older adults. NIA is also the lead federal agency for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias research.
Dr. Hodes has devoted his tenure to the development of a strong, diverse, and balanced research program. This has led to new and innovative ways to conduct research, share data, and translate findings into practice. For example, NIA-funded research is exploring the basic biology of aging, examining genetic and other factors influencing aging, how they affect longevity, and the development of age-related diseases. Research in geriatrics is uncovering new ways to combat frailty and improve function with age. Behavioral and social research is deepening understanding of the individual behaviors and societal decisions that affect well-being.
In addition, cutting-edge research conducted and supported by NIA, often in collaboration across NIH Institutes, Center, and Offices, has helped to revolutionize the way we think about Alzheimer's and related dementias. Studies in genetics, basic mechanisms, imaging, biomarkers, and prevention have spurred the development of potential therapies aimed at a variety of targets and the testing of interventions at the earliest signs of disease. Research into dementia care and caregiving interventions is paving the path for improving the quality of life for people living with dementia and their families.
A leading immunologist, Dr. Hodes' research laboratory in the NIH National Cancer Institute focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate the immune response. Additional background is available on his lab's website.
A graduate of Yale University, Dr. Hodes received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine; a member of The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives; a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and a member of the National Academy of Medicine at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
|Name||In Office From||To|
|Norman Kretchmer (Acting)||October 1974||July 1975|
|Richard C. Greulich (Acting)||July 1975||April 1976|
|Robert N. Butler||May 1, 1976||July 1982|
|Robert L. Ringler (Acting)||July 16, 1982||June 30, 1983|
|T. Franklin Williams||July 1, 1983||July 31, 1991|
|Gene D. Cohen (Acting)||July 1, 1991||May 31, 1993|
|Richard J. Hodes||June 1, 1993||Present|
Laboratory of Cardiovascular Science (LCS)
LCS goals are to: 1) identify age associated changes that occur within the cardiovascular (CV) system and to determine the mechanisms for these changes; 2) determine how aging of the heart and vasculature interacts with chronic disease states to enhance the risk for CV diseases in older persons; 3) study basic mechanisms in excitation-contraction coupling and how these are modulated by surface receptor signaling pathways in cardiac cells; 4) elucidate mechanisms of pacemaker activity in sinoatrial nodal cells; 5) elucidate mechanisms that govern cardiac and vascular cell survival; and 6) establish the potentials and limitations of new therapeutic approaches such as changes in lifestyle, novel pharmacologic agents or gene or stem cell transfer techniques in aging or disease states.
Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Immunology (LMBI)
The unifying theme of LMBI's research program is to uncover molecular mechanisms that are pertinent to understanding and ameliorating age-associated disabilities and diseases, with emphasis on changes in the immune system. Programs cover fundamental biological questions such as: 1) the study of gene regulatory mechanisms that mediate cellular responses to developmental signals, immune activation and stress stimuli; 2) induction of effective immune responses, including the mechanisms of class switch recombination and somatic hypermutation, and generation and maintenance of memory; 3) The influence of replisome composition and aging on the response to DNA replication stress during immune cell development and expansion: 4) the role of telomere length and telomerase activity in lymphocyte function and aging; and 5) immune regulatory mechanisms that affect aging. LMBI programs have a strong translational component with studies aimed at improving vaccine efficacy in the elderly and examining the molecular and cellular basis of tumor metastasis. LMBI also participates extensively in two ongoing human cohort studies, the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) and GESTALT, to enable direct application of molecular parameters to the human condition.
Laboratory of Clinical Investigation (LCI)
LCI seeks to understand fundamental metabolic processes that change with aging, to elucidate which alterations are pathological and which are homeostatic as humans age. LCI investigators hope to uncover ways to manage and/or circumvent the pathological alterations so that the health of the elderly stays stable. Studies are performed at molecular, cellular, animal model and human levels. Further, LCI takes a multisystem approach to age-related changes because changes in one system lead to adaptive changes in another. Understanding which are adaptive and which are primary is an intense area of investigation using newly developed multidimensional algorithms and computer programs. The areas of most intense investigation within LCI are pancreatic islet morphology and changes therein with obesity, inflammation and aging; senescence of stem cells; metabolic perturbations of neurodegeneration; development and validation of blood-based, histological-based and imaging biomarkers of age-related and vascular-related neurodegeneration to inform diagnosis and the testing of potential therapeutic interventions; and development of plant-based compounds as treatments for metabolic conditions. In each of these cases, translational research is far advanced on target compounds that are hypothesized to alter natural history of age-related diseases or are already shown to be beneficial in humans. LCI also carries out proof-of-principle Phase 1 research with index compounds that have been developed in the basic science laboratories.
Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Sciences (LEPS)
LEPS investigate the causes and consequences of disease and function-specific outcomes that are highly prevalent in the population, with particular focus on those related to aging and health disparities. The laboratory takes a multi-modality and multi-disciplinary approach which includes observational studies, clinical trials, and translational experimental research. Studies are designed to integrate knowledge and identify common behavioral and biologic pathways of disease and function related to the cardiovascular, neuro-cognitive, musculoskeletal, body composition and metabolic systems, and investigate how these are affected by age, health disparities, socioeconomic status, genetic difference, and modifiable risk factors. Common mechanisms of interest include inflammation, metabolic dysregulation, increase in visceral fat and decrease in muscle mass, elevated blood pressure, and atherosclerosis. Genetic contributions and their interactions with behavioral and physiologic factors are studied in the context of genome wide association study consortia. Efforts also focus on translation to clinical trials of our findings based on observational studies. Additionally, LEPS actively investigates state-of-the-art objective measures that can be applied in population-based cohorts. To address these questions, LEPS has developed a number of well-phenotyped longitudinally followed cohorts, including the Age Gene/Environment-Reykjavik Study (AGES-RS), Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span (HANDLS) Study, and Health and Body Composition Study (HABC).
Laboratory of Genetics and Genomics (LGG)
LGG strives to understand the genetic and genomic determinants of aging with the unified goal of delaying, reducing, and preventing aging disease and disability. To this end, LGG built a program with two main components: (1) to identify the genes and gene expression programs that govern physiologic declines in aging, including reduced strength, decreased ability to respond to cell damage, diminished regenerative potential, and increased senescence; and (2) to identify the genomic determinants of pathologies that increase in the elderly, including neurodegeneration, sarcopenia, diabetes, atherosclerosis, obesity, and cancer. Specific research projects in LGG encompass many central topics in aging biology: chromatin determinants of aging traits, roles of telomeres in genomic integrity, coding and noncoding RNA expression programs, RNA dynamics, drug discovery, senescent cell biology, and invertebrate and mammalian model organisms. LGG collaborates widely with intramural and extramural teams to test emerging hypotheses in these areas by using state-of-the-art technologies and aging models.
Laboratory of Molecular Gerontology (LMG)
LMG investigates DNA metabolism including genomic instability, DNA repair, DNA replication, and transcription with special attention to examining the role of DNA damage accumulation in senescence, which is a major cause of aging. Researchers investigate how accumulation of DNA damage with aging leads to senescence, mitochondrial dysfunction, and age-associated disease. LMG has found a signaling pathway from nuclear damage to mitochondrial dysfunction, which seems to be defective in some DNA repair defective disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, and intervention with nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide supplementation has beneficial effects. LMG also investigates the mechanistic role of human premature aging proteins in preventing early aging. Researchers study the mechanism involved in DNA repair of oxidative lesions; and in base excision repair, including the function of individual DNA repair proteins and their protein interactions. Additionally, LMG studies proteins and pathways involved in the maintenance of the chromosome ends, the telomeres. Investigators explore how DNA interstrand crosslinks — very detrimental to cells — are removed from DNA and how this relates to age-associated disease. In addition, LMG studies the roles of DNA helicases in genomic stability and conducts translational and intervention studies. Thus, the focus is on genome stability and maintenance and its connection to aging with a view to intervention.
Laboratory of Neurogenetics (LNG)
LNG studies neurodegenerative diseases based on a resolution of their genetic etiology. The Molecular Genetics Section is focused on finding genes for neurodegenerative disease, particularly Parkinson’s disease and related disorders; the Neuromuscular Disease Research Section works toward an understanding of the genetic basis of neuromuscular disorders including Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; the Integrative Neurogenomics Unit aims to dissect the genetic risk of neurodegenerative diseases using multiple layers of genetic and genomic data; the Cell Biology & Gene Expression Section seeks to develop an understanding of the effects of mutant genes on cell physiology, including patient derived cells; the Transgenic Section examines the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders in whole animals and to identify underlying physiological pathways relevant disease risk; and the Molecular Neuropathology Section uses both patient derived material and experimental systems to investigate novel therapeutic approaches across a range of neurodegenerative diseases. Underpinning this structure are three groups: a Computational Biology Group to facilitate large-scale data analytics with a focus on multi-omics integration, a Data Science Group that uses high volume genetic and other data to derive population level analyses relevant to neurodegenerative diseases and a Genomic Technologies Group to leverage and support the most recent genomic approaches.
Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience (LBN)
LBN conducts basic and clinical research on individual differences in cognition, personality and affect; investigates the cellular, neural systems and genetic contributions to variation between individuals in animal models and humans; examines predictors and modifiers of age-related neurodegenerative diseases, cognitive and brain aging, and brain-behavior associations; develops innovative computational and neuroimaging technologies; identifies early markers of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline; examines factors that promote the maintenance of cognitive health; and develops and validates blood-based and imaging biomarkers of age-related neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease to inform diagnosis elucidate disease mechanisms, and identify potential novel therapeutics. Laboratory investigators employ a variety of approaches, including experimental, longitudinal, neuroimaging, biomarker, neuropathological, anatomical, molecular, and genetic methods in the analysis of biological and psychological aspects of aging.
Translational Gerontology Branch (TGB)
TGB is focused on improving the health and wellbeing of the elderly population through epidemiological, clinical, and basic research programs, with a special emphasis on longitudinal observations and intervention studies. TGB conducts the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) and the Study of Longitudinal Aging in Mice (SLAM) as part of efforts to investigate and develop novel strategies and interventions to support healthy aging and the prevention or delay of functional decline and age-related diseases. TGB’s main research goals are to: 1) translate discoveries made from human and model organisms to basic biology (and vice versa), mainstreaming the “bench-to-bedside-to-bench” approach; 2) explore and identify the underlying molecular mechanisms responsible for the functional decline that occurs with normal aging, hereditary premature aging disorders, neurodegeneration, and cell senescence; 3) build comprehensive multidimensional biomarker signatures of cell senescence, aging, and age-relate diseases and 4) develop and test interventions to delay aging processes.
Center for Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias (CARD)
CARD’s mission is to advance basic, translational, and clinical research on AD/ADRD, with the goal of developing improved treatments and preventions for these diseases. This collaborative initiative between the NIA and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke executes research in 1) molecular pathogenesis anchored in genetics, 2) disease subtyping, prediction, and progression, 3) de-risking of ADRD therapeutic targets, and 4) precision therapeutics. Current ongoing investigations in these domains center on the creating, sharing, and democratization of physical resources and data in addition to independent investigator-initiated research programs. CARD’s work is performed prioritizing democratization of data, collaboration and cooperation, safe, responsible data sharing, diversity in research and researchers, transparency and reproducibility, and the creation of foundational, actionable resources.
Division of Extramural Activities (DEA)
DEA manages NIA's grants and training policies and procedures, including oversight of grants and contract administration, scientific review, receipt and referral, initiative development, clinical research tracking and coordination, and small business functions. It serves as NIA’s primary liaison to the NIH Office of Extramural Research and to other NIH Institutes and Centers that share research interests. DEA manages NIA's extramural training programs, career development programs, small business initiatives, and other special programs such as the Loan Repayment Program and conference grants. The division also manages the Clinical Research Operations & Management System (CROMS). The division handles scientific integrity and ethical questions in research and manages the National Advisory Council on Aging (NACA).
Scientific Review Branch (SRB)
SRB conducts the initial peer review of applications with NIA-specific needs. These include applications for research centers, program projects, cooperative agreements, institutional training grants, career development awards, scientific conference meetings, Loan repayment awards, and contract proposals. SRB also manages the review of research project applications, primarily in response to NIA’s Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs) such as Requests for Applications and Requests for Proposals.
Grants and Contracts Management Branch
This branch works with scientists and institutional research administrators to issue, manage, and close out awards. The branch has legal responsibility for the fiscal management of the Institute’s extramural grants and contracts.
Office of Strategic Extramural Programs (OSEP)
OSEP oversees, coordinates, and supports the development of research conducted by small businesses, with particular attention to both the Small Business Innovative Research Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program. Small businesses responsibilities include responding to applicants’ questions on relevant NOFOs, coordination of the Small Business Committee and funding lists, outreach, and the development and management of resources to help facilitate the success of both applicants and awardees. OSEP also oversees, coordinates, and supports NIA’s fellowship, training, and career development programs. Its responsibilities include responding to applicants’ questions on relevant NOFOs, and coordination of the Fellowship Funding Committee, diversity and related supplements, funding lists, and outreach.
DEA Office of the Director (DEA-OD)
This office coordinates a variety of programmatic areas: Responsibilities include referring grant applications to their appropriate scientific divisions; loan repayment program; Human Subjects System and NIA Inclusion Reporting; assisting in diversity and inclusion reporting; and overseeing the publication of NIA’s NOFOs. The DEA-OD also responds to analytical requests from stakeholders within and outside of NIH regarding NIA’s extramural grant operations, including subjects such as the Next Generation Researchers Initiative. In addition, OD manages NACA operations and meetings.
Office of Clinical Research (OCR)
OCR manages and coordinates various clinical research activities across all the extramural divisions; specifically including the CROMS system that provides institute-wide informatics capability to track, report, and manage NIA’s clinical research data, activities, and grant portfolio.
National Advisory Council on Aging (NACA)
Congress created NACA to advise, consult with, and make recommendations to the HHS Secretary and Assistant Secretary for Health, and the NIH and NIA directors. NACA provides counsel on matters relating to the conduct and support of biomedical, social, and behavioral research; training; health information dissemination; and other programs regarding the aging process, diseases, and other needs of the aging population.
NACA consists of 18 members appointed by the HHS Secretary and four non-voting ex officio members. Of the 18 appointed members, 12 are leading representatives of health and scientific disciplines, including the fields of public health and behavioral or social sciences. Six of the members are leaders from the general public in the fields of public policy, law, health policy, economics, and management. NACA meets three times annually.
Division of Aging Biology (DAB)
The NIA Division of Aging Biology (DAB) supports funding for basic, applied, and translational research on the biology of aging. It promotes training of a diverse workforce to engage in these investigations, working to further attract researchers from different fields and at all career-stages. This division also supports research centers of excellence on the biology of aging to facilitate the dissemination of new ideas and approaches in the field.
DAB’s primary focus is on molecular mechanisms of aging, which form the basis for understanding the decline of function and deficit accumulations that are characteristic of aged animals, from humans to invertebrates. Our portfolios include research with yeast (as a model of single-cell aging), laboratory, domestic and wild animal populations, and studies with human participants across multiple communities to better support research on health disparities, minority health, and women’s health.
The scientific research portfolios are managed in concert by the Office of the Division Director and three Branches: Aging Physiology, Cell Biology, and Translational Research.
Office of the Division Director
The Office of the Division Director (DDO) sets priorities and strategic directions for research supported by the division, including collaborations with other NIA divisions and other NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs). The DDO manages and coordinates the portfolios for clinical research (human subjects and health disparities research), the training, mentored research, and workforce diversity programs, as well as the Nathan Shock Centers of Excellence in the Biology of Aging(link is external).
The DAB Director is the co-founder and current leader of the Geroscience Interest Group (GSIG) that includes representation from all four NIA extramural scientific divisions and the intramural research program, and 20 of the 27 NIH ICs. The GSIG is a collaborative framework to disseminate information and promote NIH-wide and IC-specific activities in geroscience, including outreach to the broader scientific and lay communities.
Aging Physiology Branch
DAB’s Aging Physiology Branch (APB) manages an extensive portfolio of research on the fundamental mechanisms of aging-related changes that alter function in different tissue and organ systems and contribute to conditions and diseases of aging. It supports research at the molecular, cellular, and higher levels of organization, including signaling between and integration across tissues and organ systems. In addition, the branch is interested in uncovering relationships between the hallmarks of aging and integrative physiology that impact the heterogeneity of aging.
This branch focuses on several major research areas: (1) Endocrinology supports basic research into the causes and effects of age-related changes in the endocrine system, and on aging-dependent changes in cellular responses to endocrine factors; (2) Immunology supports studies on changes in the immune systems of older people that affect health and may contribute to the increased incidence of infection including regulation of lymphocyte proliferation, immune specificity, autoimmune disease, endocrine control of immune function, and interventions to retard and/or correct age-related decline in immune function; (3) Neuromuscular and Connective Tissue Biology supports studies on muscle, tendon, and the neuromuscular junction that focus on identifying molecular mechanisms of age-related decline in tissue homeostasis (e.g., sarcopenia) and in the context of overall health during aging; (4) Bone and Cartilage Biology supports research on molecular mechanisms of age-related decline in bone and cartilage (e.g., causes of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis) and on how these tissues interact in the context of overall health to establish an integrated physiology of healthy aging; (5) Circulatory and Pulmonary supports studies on how the circulatory and pulmonary systems change with age, including research on cardiac, vascular, and lung structure and function; (6)Skin and Cutaneous Wound Healing this program is focused on supporting research on the molecular and physiological changes of the skin during the aging process, aging related skin conditions including cancer, and the identification of targets to improve the treatment of skin complications due to aging; and (7) Microbiome and Virome supports research on the host microbiota and endogenous viruses and their beneficial versus deleterious consequences for aging.
Cell Biology Branch
DAB’s Cell Biology Branch (CBB) focuses on the basic molecular mechanisms believed to underlie age-related dysfunction, with a focus on molecular studies, performed primarily in cell culture, model organisms, and humans. The mission of the CBB is to elucidate molecular, biochemical, and cellular mechanisms underlying aging and age-related dysfunctions. Research supported by CBB includes genetic, cell biological, and metabolic changes that affect the length and/or quality of life in human and animal models. All portfolios in the CBB support research on biomarkers of aging. Multidisciplinary approaches and advanced technologies are encouraged to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the molecular determinants of aging and longevity across the full arc of biological systems — from organelles to organisms.
The branch has seven major research portfolios: (1) Cell Biology supports research on the cell structure and cytoskeleton, cell cycle and cell trafficking, senescence, autophagy, cellular signaling, extracellular matrix, protein homeostasis, and cell biological aspects of progeria; (2) Metabolic Regulation supports research on nutrition and metabolism in relation to aging including mitochondrial fitness and integrity, nutrient sensing, mechanisms of calorie restriction, and circadian regulation of dietary interventions; novel metabolites and signaling; metabolic syndrome & sequelae; metabolic hormone action; and stress response; (3) Genetics supports studies to identify and characterize molecular mechanisms affecting longevity and healthy aging in the areas of genetics and epigenetics; DNA damage and genomic instability; telomere biology; genetic and stochastic variations/heterogeneity; human genetics of healthy aging; and molecular aspects of progeria; (4) Emerging Technology supports research of aging biology using or developing new technologies in the areas of computational and informatic tools; artificial intelligence, machine learning, or health monitoring technologies; systems biology; imaging or graphical tools to visualize and display rates of aging; and tissues-, organs- and organ systems-on-a-chip technologies; (5) Molecular Epidemiology supports studies of aging biology by broadening the understanding of relationships between environmental exposures and rates of aging in human populations; developing better biomarkers for rates of aging in humans; and establishing connections and integration between cross-sectional and longitudinal studies; (6) Cancer Aging Biology supports research on the relation between aging and cancer, including mechanisms and causal relationships between aging processes and increased risk for cancers at older ages; mechanisms and causal relationships between therapies to treat cancers and acceleration of aging; aging-relevant laboratory models of cancers; non-mutational epigenetic changes as potential drivers of age-related cancers; and functional overlaps and intersections between the hallmarks of aging and the hallmarks of cancer; and (7) Synthetic Biology supports research of aging biology through systems biology; design of genetic circuits to explore molecular pathways; detailed understanding of aging hallmarks and cell-state changes related to aging (as drivers or reporters to advance understanding of various aspects of aging biology); Applications to specific cellular processes and structures that are altered during aging, such as programmed cell death, extracellular matrix stiffness, cytoskeleton and their interactions with other cellular structures and functions.
Translational Research Branch
The Translational Research Branch (TRB) supports all aspects of translational research in aging biology through grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements, including support for shared research resources that facilitate the identification, development, and validation of novel models for translational research in aging biology.
TRB manages the following shared resources: (1) Intervention testing programs in genetically heterogeneous mice (ITP) and Caenorhabditis (CITP); (2) Aged rodent colonies, including commonly used inbred mouse and rat strains; (3) Rodent tissue bank containing tissues and organs from mice and rats housed in the aging colonies; (4) Cell repository with representative samples from a variety of species; (5)Aged rhesus macaques at three National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs) for research on aging by NIH-funded scientists ;(6) A non-human primate (NHP) biorepository holding tissues donated by NHP colonies in the United States such as the NPRC as well as the NHP aging database; and (7) A NHP aging database of biological data collected across the lifespans of several species.
In addition, the TRB grant portfolios include: (1) Lifespan Interventions Program with a focus on the impact of pharmacological interventions on life- and/or health-span; (2) Environmental and Midlife Stressors Program with a focus on uncovering the mechanisms of environmental and other factors on aging and/or rates of aging; (3) Comparative Biology of Aging Program with a focus on aging mechanisms across several vertebrate species; and (4) Regenerative Medicine Program with a focus on developing regenerative strategies to restore functions lost due to aging.
Division of Behaviroal and Social Research (BSR)
BSR supports basic and translational social, behavioral, psychological, and economic research and research training on the processes of aging and on factors pertaining to cognitive health and AD/ADRD. The division supports research at both the individual and societal levels, all with a strong focus on health disparities. BSR also fosters cross-disciplinary research at multiple levels from genetics to cross-national comparative research, and across stages from basic science to applied science and translation, including small business innovation and technology transfer research. Supported research includes interventions and pragmatic trials that are conducted in a variety of community, healthcare, and institutional settings, and that are aligned with principles of the NIH Science of Behavior Change Program and the NIH Stage Model for Behavioral Intervention Development.
IBP develops and supports research programs with a broad scientific scope on psychological, behavioral, and interpersonal processes of relevance to aging. This includes research on mechanisms of behavior change and behavioral interventions, cognitive and emotional functioning, behavior genetics and sociogenomics, technology and human factors, family and interpersonal relationships, and integrative biobehavioral research on the mechanistic pathways linking social and behavioral factors to health in mid-life and older age. There is a strong emphasis on life course research, including early life influences on later life outcomes, as well as research on behavioral and social processes in midlife that play a causal role in shaping trajectories of aging. Research to elucidate the psychological, behavioral, and interpersonal mechanisms that account for later life health inequalities is particularly encouraged, as is research that elucidates causal pathways underlying successful aging and resilience. The branch supports research that is highly interdisciplinary, linking methods and approaches from psychology with those of economics, anthropology, neuroscience, and genetics, including studies conducted in wild and captive animal models. Supported areas of science are categorized into the five general areas below, which are not mutually exclusive:
- Behavior Change and Behavioral Interventions. Research is supported on the development of behavioral interventions to promote the health and well-being of individuals as they age, including interventions for AD/ADRD prevention and care. Priorities include research focused on the psychological, behavioral, and interpersonal mechanisms of behavior change.
- Behavioral Genetics of Aging. Research is supported on genetic and genomic influences linking social, psychological, and behavioral processes with health and well-being over the life course. Priorities include studies of gene-by-environment interactions that influence risk for and progression of AD/ADRD. Approaches of interest include quantitative and molecular genetic analysis. epigenetic and gene expression studies, and discordant twin designs, among others.
- Cognitive Aging. Experimental, longitudinal, and translational research is supported related to changes in cognitive functioning over the life course, including subjective cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment, and AD/ADRD. Priorities include studies that: (1) examine the influence of contexts (behavioral, social, cultural, and technological) on the cognitive functioning of aging persons; (2) investigate the effects of age-related changes in cognition on activities of daily living, social relationships, and health status; and (3) develop strategies for preventing AD/ADRD and improving everyday functioning through cognitive interventions.
- Family and Interpersonal Processes. Research focuses on the development and consequences of social interactions and interpersonal relationships across the lifespan and intergenerationally. Primary topics of interest include: (1) the contributions of family members, intimate partners, and friends to health and well-being; (2) dyadic interactions; (3) the impacts of social networks, social isolation, and loneliness on health outcomes across the lifespan, including onset and progression of AD/ADRD; (4) shared decision making during key life transitions, and the influence of close relationships and social networks on health behaviors; (5) care planning for people living with AD/ADRD and the health and well-being of caregivers; (6) the causes and consequences of elder mistreatment; and (7) social and structural influences on the experiences and health of sexual and gender minority individuals.
- Psychological Development and Integrative Science. Integrative approaches to understanding psychological aging are supported, with a focus on biobehavioral and biosocial mechanisms or processes that contribute to optimal aging outcomes or that affect risk or progression of AD/ADRD. Topics include personality and non-cognitive skills, emotional function, subjective well-being, stress processes, and the impact (and potential reversibility) of early life adversity on aging outcomes.
The PSP supports research and data infrastructure projects on how demographic, cultural, sociological, economic, institutional, geographic, and other factors at a population level influence health at older ages. “Health” is broadly defined to include physical and cognitive functioning (including AD/ADRD), disability, morbidity, and well-being. Research is encouraged using longitudinal data with measures to support life course and later life health outcomes, dynamics, and disparities. PSP supports representative random national data collections, clinical trials on health system organization and institutional design to improve care and health, and quasi-experimental and experimental studies on the role of social/economic factors on health and welfare, including cross-national studies. Supported areas of science are categorized into the three general areas below, which are not mutually exclusive:
- Population Representative Studies. This area focuses on the development, implementation, and sharing of nationally representative longitudinal data to support aging research. A specific focus is on random samples, including oversamples of NIH-designated health disparity populations, with rich longitudinal data to support life course research. Linkage of these studies with biological and genetic data, physical and cognitive performance measures, administrative records (e.g., Medicare) and contextual data to support multidisciplinary aging research is encouraged. To foster cross-national studies of aging, the development of international comparator studies and harmonization efforts in different social, environmental, cultural, and economic contexts is supported.
- Health Systems. This area supports experimental and quasi-experimental studies on the influence of the health care system on health, including AD/ADRD. This includes studies on the effect of payment practices, insurance design, and financing on health care access, use and outcomes, as well as research on models of care and care delivery to improve health, health delivery, and quality of care. Experimental research that considers provider-level and policy interventions in health care and long-term services and supports (LTSS) systems, including behavioral economics approaches, to improve quality of care and health outcomes, is encouraged. This area includes a focus on cost care for AD/ADRD and the impact of innovations in care on access, utilization, outcomes, and costs. A cross-cutting area is U.S. regional and international comparative studies of different health and LTSS systems on expenditures and outcomes at older ages.
- Macro-Social Factors. This area supports studies examining cultural, demographic, social, and economic factors outside of the healthcare system that drive population trends at older ages in physical and cognitive functioning (including AD/ADRD), disability, morbidity, mortality, health, and well-being. Examples of research supported in this area include the study of how demographic processes influence health outcomes; how sociocultural drivers, such as structural racism, affect health disparities and health in minoritized populations; how unemployment, recessions, and income uncertainty operate as risk factors for poor health; the impact of climate events on the aging population; and projects in the biodemography of aging utilizing genetic and epigenetic data.
Within and across the branches, BSR supports research and initiatives on life course familial, social, psychological, behavioral, institutional, and economic factors pertaining to cognitive health and AD/ADRD at both the population and individual levels. This includes research ranging from large scale observational studies to mechanistic investigations, leveraging new behavioral and biological assessments to characterize individual differences and disparities in risk and protective factors for AD/ADRD, and to better understand disease etiology. BSR also supports translational research exploring the malleability of factors at the individual, systems, and social levels to design interventions for AD/ADRD prevention, to support caregivers, and to improve approaches to dementia care. BSR’s Office of AD/ADRD Strategic Coordination (OASC) works to align BSR priorities with those of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) and to develop AD/ADRD Research Implementation Milestones through NIA-supported Research Summits.
BSR’s AD/ADRD portfolio spans multiple levels from genetics to cross-national comparative research, and all stages from basic through translational. Priority topics include dementia care and long-term services and supports; caregiver research and caregiving interventions; cognitive and dementia epidemiology; behavioral and social pathways of risk and resilience for AD/ADRD; measurement of early psychological and functional changes in AD/ADRD; and AD/ADRD prevention, including promotion of long-term behavioral and lifestyle change. Across themes, there is attention to social determinants of health and health disparities to better understand individual and population sub-group variation in dementia-related outcomes. BSR also develops and supports numerous data and infrastructure resources for AD/ADRD research in the social, behavioral, psychological, and economic sciences.
NIA/BSR supports numerous data infrastructure projects, most notably the longitudinal and population-representative U.S. Health and Retirement Study (HRS); harmonization projects; archives; repositories; and transdisciplinary research networks to catalyze behavioral and social research on aging. BSR-supported data resources include large samples of minoritized populations to promote disparities research as well as educational cohorts to study life course aging and cognition. Support for international comparators to the HRS includes implementation of the Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol to facilitate cross-national research on dementia epidemiology and produce national estimates of AD/ADRD prevalence and incidence. Data from these studies are available to qualified researchers, subject only to restrictions imposed for some linked administrative data. With input from periodic reports, including those by the NACA, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), and ad hoc expert review panels, BSR has developed a portfolio of publicly available data projects to meet evolving scientific priorities, many of which are highlighted on the NIA website. In addition, BSR facilitates requests from grantees for linkages of NIA-supported studies to administrative data such as from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and participates in NIH-wide initiatives to develop common data elements.
Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology (DGCG)
The DGCG supports research on health and disease in older people and research on aging over the human lifespan, including its relationships to health outcomes. DGCG comprises three major research areas, divided into three division branches — Geriatrics, Clinical Gerontology, and Clinical Trials. Program-wide emphases include research training and career development to attract new investigators to the field of aging and to further the development of active investigators in clinical medicine and biomedical research, and the application of new technologies to expand opportunities for clinical aging research.
Geriatrics focuses on health issues regarding older people. Research emphases include multifactorial geriatric syndromes such as falls, frailty, and various types of disability; effects of comorbidity and polypharmacy; effects of age-related changes on clinical or functional disease outcomes or treatment responses; effects of physical activity on disease and disability in older persons; and the elucidation, diagnosis, and treatment of previously unappreciated pathologic changes in old age (e.g., sarcopenia, vascular stiffening, diastolic dysfunction). The Geriatrics Branch supports the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Centers (OAICs). The OAICs conduct basic and clinical research to enhance the ability of older people to maintain their independence.
Clinical Gerontology focuses on clinically related research on aging changes over the lifespan. Research emphases include healthy aging across the lifespan (including exceptional longevity); protective factors against multiple age-related conditions; determinants of rates of progression of age-related changes that affect disease risk, particularly those for multiple age-related conditions; menopause and mid-life aging changes; translational human research to follow up findings from basic research on aging; long-term effects of current or new interventions that may be administered over a large part of the lifespan; and long-term effects of physical activity throughout the lifespan.
Clinical Trials plans and administers clinical trials on age-related issues. Research emphases include interventions to prevent or treat “geriatric syndromes,” disability, and complications of comorbidity or polypharmacy; trials to detect age- or comorbidity-related differences in responses to interventions against conditions found in middle age and old age; interventions for problems associated with menopause and other mid- and late-life changes; interventions that may affect rates of progression of age-related declines in function in early and mid-life; and interventions with protective effects against multiple age-related conditions, including intervention studies on the effects of androgens in older men.
Division of Neuroscience (DN)
Organized into five branches, DN fosters and supports extramural and collaborative research and training to advance understanding of neural and behavioral processes and of neurodegenerative diseases associated with brain aging. Research on dementias of old age — in particular Alzheimer's disease — is one of the division's highest priorities.
Neurobiology of Aging and Neurodegeneration
This branch fosters research aimed at understanding how the nervous system is affected during normal and pathological aging. Supported research is on the genetic, molecular, cellular, and neural mechanisms underlying changes in the brain and its interaction with other physiological systems.
Fundamental Neuroscience supports studies on age-related structural and functional changes in the brain, including mechanisms of selective vulnerability and plasticity of neural cells, synapses, circuits, and networks to neurodegeneration. Supported research is on the role of hallmarks of aging, senescence, genetics/epigenetics, DNA damage, cell stress, proteostasis, mitochondria, metabolism, lipid neurobiology, neuroglia, neuroplasticity, neural stem cells/neurogenesis, and cell reprogramming in brain aging and neurodegeneration. Basic Science of Alzheimer’s Disease supports examination of molecular, cellular, synaptic, and circuitry mechanisms, inflammation, proteinopathy, protein polymorphisms, structural biology, and cerebrovasculature in the etiology and pathobiology of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias of aging. In Integrative Neurobiology, the focus is on neural mechanisms underlying age-related changes between organ systems and the CNS, on endocrine and immune functions, and on neurodegenerative diseases associated with infectious agents. Sleep and Biological Rhythms encompasses age-related studies of epidemiology, etiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of sleep disorders of older people; and of altered sleep-wake cycles/disordered biorhythmicity and their behavioral and neurodegenerative effects in aging.
Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience
This branch emphasizes research on the neural mechanisms underlying age- and Alzheimer’s disease-related changes in cognition, emotion, sensory, and motor function, from the level of genes to the whole organism and epidemiological studies of populations. Studies of molecular, structural, and dynamic brain changes, including research on adaptation or plasticity, resilience, and reserve are of particular interest, as well as interventions to maintain or gain function in older age. The Sensory Processes program supports studies on neural mechanisms of age- and/or disease-related alterations in visual, auditory, somatosensory, vestibular, and chemosensory functions. An emphasis is on research on disorders of the sensory systems, such as presbycusis or pain (acute and chronic). To understand Motor Function, supported research is on proprioception, postural control and balance, neuromuscular function, sensory-motor integration, and movement disorders in aging, including Parkinson's disease. The relationship between sensory or motor dysfunction and age-related dementia is a developing area. Computational neuroscience approaches and multi-scale modeling to interrogate these complex behaviors are encouraged. Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience encompasses research on neural mechanisms of age-related change in cognitive processes, including learning, memory, spatial cognition, attention, executive function, decision making, and language as well as the neurobiology of age-related changes in emotion. Prevention and treatment trials for age-related cognitive decline also are emphasized. Investigations of the neural underpinnings of delirium and post-operative cognitive decline are supported, including clinical trials for prevention and remediation. The relationship between delirium and dementia, as well as the distinction between age-related cognitive decline and pre-symptomatic AD/ADRD are also of interest. The branch supports research on non-neural comorbidities (e.g., hypertension, renal disease), as well as aging changes in sex hormones, and their impact on cognitive and brain health. DN, and this branch in particular, interact and collaborate with the NIA Division of Behavioral and Social Research, where psychological science and behavioral neuroscience converge, as well as with the NIA Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology, where aging of non-neural systems, geriatric syndromes, and central nervous system function converge.
Population Studies and Genetics
The Population Studies and Genetics Branch supports epidemiology and genetics research to advance knowledge and increase understanding of brain aging and neurodegeneration. The Population Studies portfolio embraces research that examines the trajectory of cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and AD/ADRD, including direct measurements of morbidity levels in diverse populations in the U.S. and globally. Research areas include the identification of potential risk and protective factors for disease (genetic, environmental, modifiable and co-morbidities) through longitudinal studies using biospecimens (blood, cerebrospinal fluid, CNS tissues), neuroimaging, and medical history data to better understand the etiology of MCI/AD/ADRD; population-based research for the discovery or expansion of predictive pre-clinical biomarkers (e.g., blood, fluid, neuroimaging) associated with vascular or neurological changes; causal pathways of neurobiology and neuropathology in populations including health disparate populations (African Americans, Hispanic Latino, Asian Americans, Hawaiian Natives and other Pacific Islanders, American Indians/Alaskan Natives, rural, or other medically underserved populations), exposome assessment and MCI/AD/ADRD in diverse populations.
The Genetics portfolio is aimed at the discovery of therapeutic targets for AD in diverse populations by identification of regions in the genome conferring risk or protection, and identification of associated molecular pathways with clear links to the etiology of disease. Definition of AD/ADRD endophenotypes in diverse populations through use of genetic, functional genomic, machine learning, and harmonized clinical data is a priority in order to define subgroups of AD/ADRD subjects to achieve better clinical trial designs is a key priority for the portfolio. The portfolio has a strong emphasis on the genetics of ethnically diverse populations. Research areas include fundamental genetic studies for AD/ADRD to reveal the genetic underpinnings of AD heterogeneity; infrastructure support for data curation and rapid data sharing; infrastructure support for harmonization of phenotypic and related clinical data; development of research resources necessary to support the genetics portfolio; development and application of analytic approaches to genetic and associated AD/ADRD phenotypic data; integrative analysis of multiple genetic, genomic, and phenotypic AD/ADRD data; functional genomic studies to delineate causal genetic variants and functional genomic elements and discovery of their impact on AD pathogenesis and underlying biological mechanisms. Moreover, the portfolio includes the development of Artificial Intelligence and/or Machine Learning (AI/ML) approaches and applications to genetic, genomic, and phenotypic data to understand the role of genetic factors in susceptibility and resistance to AD/ADRD, as well as their interaction with other environmental and exposome factors, including race and ethnicity.
This branch supports the full spectrum of drug discovery and preclinical drug development from target discovery and validation through securing Investigational New Drug status for small molecules and biologics aimed at prevention, treatment, and management of individuals with or at-risk for cognitive decline and AD/ADRD. In addition to building a portfolio of novel therapeutics for a diverse set of therapeutic targets, the branch supports the development of translational infrastructure that operates under open-source, open-science principles to increase research rigor, reproducibility, and translatability. Central to the mission of the branch is providing support for integration of data science disciplines (such as systems and network biology, systems pharmacology, and translational bioinformatics) with experimental approaches throughout the translational process, including for the purposes of advancing drug repositioning and combination therapy development.
Clinical Interventions and Diagnostics
This branch supports research on the diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and management of individuals with or at-risk for cognitive decline and AD/ADRD. The branch supports all stages of clinical development for pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions and combination therapies, as well as research on methods development and training for innovative trial design. The branch also supports research on diagnostics aimed at the development and evaluation of reliable and valid multidimensional diagnostic procedures and instruments including imaging, fluid and digital biomarkers, and clinical and neuropsychological instruments for diagnosis, progression, and response to treatment. A central goal is the maintenance and development of research infrastructure for clinical trials and biomarkers development, which includes the national network of Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers.
This page last reviewed on May 17, 2023