National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)


The mission of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.

To continue fulfilling this vital public health mission, the Institute fosters innovative thinking and supports a full array of novel scientific perspectives to further discovery in the evolving science of the brain, behavior, and experience. In this way, breakthroughs in science can become breakthroughs for all people with mental illnesses.

To deliver high-quality, impactful research and promote translation of such research into clinical practice, services delivery, and policy, the Institute developed the NIMH Strategic Plan for Research to advance our mission and guide research. The most recent NIMH Strategic Plan for Research, published in 2020, builds on the successes of previous NIMH Strategic Plans, provides a framework for research to leverage new opportunities for scientific exploration, and addresses new challenges in mental health.

In this Strategic Plan for Research, NIMH outlines four high-level Goals as follows:

These four Goals form a broad roadmap for the Institute’s research priorities over the next 5 years, beginning with fundamental science of the brain and behavior, and extending through evidence-based services that improve public health outcomes.

Important Events in NIMH History

1946—On July 3, President Harry S. Truman signed the National Mental Health Act, which called for establishing a National Institute of Mental Health.

1946—On August 15, U.S. Surgeon General Thomas Parran, Jr., M.D., and several nationally known psychiatrists attended the first meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council. The group was tasked with advising NIMH on its policies and activities.

1947—On July 1, the U.S. Public Health Service Division of Mental Hygiene awarded the first mental health research grant, "Basic Nature of the Learning Process," to Winthrop N. Kellogg, Ph.D., of Indiana University.

1949—On April 1, NIMH was formally established under the direction of psychiatrist and public health advocate Robert H. Felix, M.D., as one of the first four institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

1951—In June, the first scientific director of NIMH, Seymour Kety, M.D., Ph.D., began building a joint basic intramural research program for NIMH and the newly created National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness (NINDB). This research program evolved into the NIMH Intramural Research Program, the internal research division of NIMH. As of 2023, the NIMH Intramural Research Program comprised more than 650 staff and more than 40 research groups conducting basic, clinical, and translational research to advance understanding of the diagnosis, causes, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders.

1952—On December 20, psychiatrist Robert A. Cohen, M.D., created a joint NIMH-NINDB clinical research program in time for the opening of the NIH Clinical Center in July 1953.

1955—On July 28, The Mental Health Study Act of 1955 (Public Law [P.L.] 84-182) called for "an objective, thorough, and nationwide analysis and reevaluation of the human and economic problems of mental illness." 

1956—On August 2, Congress passed the Health Amendments Act of 1956 (P.L. 84-911). Title V of the legislation allowed NIMH to award “special project grants” about mental health. In expanding NIMH’s existing mandate, the act enabled NIMH to be more involved in community-based mental health efforts and programs.

1956—On October 16, NIMH created the Psychopharmacology Service Center to coordinate the large-scale testing of new compounds. The congressionally funded effort, led by Jonathan O. Cole, M.D., spurred the discovery of blockbuster drugs chlorpromazine and meprobamate, to treat mental disorders. The center later evolved into the Early Clinical Drug Evaluation Unit, a collaborative program capable of conducting large nationwide clinical trials. This program, later renamed the New Clinical Drug Evaluation Unit, held an annual meeting that became a critical meeting in this domain, bringing together NIH researchers, academic investigators, industry scientists, U.S. and international regulators, and other professionals working in various aspects of drug development and clinical trials. Output from the program influenced the evolution of treatment research and the development of new treatments and treatment strategies.

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

1963—On February 5, 1963, President Kennedy submitted a special message to Congress—the first presidential message to the legislature on mental health issues. Energized by the president's focus, Congress passed the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC) Construction Act (P.L. 88-164) on October 31, beginning a new era in federal support for mental health services. NIMH assumed responsibility for monitoring the nation's community mental health centers programs.

1965—A provision in the Social Security Amendments of 1965 (P.L. 89-97) provided funds and a framework for a new Joint Commission on the Mental Health of Children to recommend national action for child mental health. The Community Mental Health Centers Act Amendments of 1965 (P.L. 89-105) also passed this year, which authorized grants to help pay the salaries of professional and technical personnel in federally funded community mental health centers.

1966—In response to President Lyndon B. Johnson's pledge to apply scientific research to social challenges, NIMH refocused its efforts on fighting specific mental health problems. The institute established centers for research, training, and services covering topics such as schizophrenia, substance use, suicide prevention, crime, and child and family mental health. The National Center for Prevention and Control of Alcoholism was also established due to emerging public recognition of alcoholism as a disease.

1967—On January 1, NIMH was separated from NIH by executive order and made an independent division within the U.S. Public Health Service. However, the NIMH Intramural Research Program, which conducted studies in the NIH Clinical Center and other NIH facilities, remained at NIH under an agreement for joint administration between NIH and NIMH.

1967—On August 13, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare Secretary John W. Gardner, Ph.D., transferred administrative control of St. Elizabeths Hospital—the federal government's only civilian psychiatric hospital—to NIMH. Research was an important part of the work of St. Elizabeths through its Clinical Pharmacology Research Center, which made significant contributions to neurological and clinical research.

1968—On April 1, NIMH became a component of the Health Services and Mental Health Administration within the U.S. Public Health Service.

1970—On April 6, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved lithium as a treatment for mania, a feature of bipolar disorder. This treatment, informed by NIMH-supported research, led to sharp drops in inpatient days and suicide rates among people with bipolar disorder and reduced economic costs associated with the illness. The FDA later approved lithium for the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder.

1970—On October 15, NIMH researcher Julius Axelrod, Ph.D., and two other researchers received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research on the chemistry of nerve transmission. Dr. Axelrod’s work established that norepinephrine was inactivated through "reuptake" by the same cells that secreted it. The discovery led to the development of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the first blockbuster neuropharmacological medicine since the 1950s. SSRIs are a class of medications commonly used as antidepressants. They work by increasing brain levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood, appetite, and sleep.

1970—On December 31, the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act (P.L. 91-616) established the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism within NIMH.

1970—NIMH established the Center for Minority Group Mental Health Programs in response to concerns voiced by the Black Psychiatrists of America and other parties. The center marked NIMH's first official effort to increase the representation of people from minority groups among extramural awardees and intramural positions.

1972—On March 21, Congress passed the Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act (P.L. 92-255), which called for the future establishment of a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) within NIMH.

1973—NIMH went through a series of organizational moves. The Institute temporarily rejoined NIH on July 2 with the abolishment of the Health Services and Mental Health Administration. The Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA)—composed of NIAAA, NIDA, and NIMH—was established as the successor organization.

1974—On May 14, Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration was officially established when President Richard Nixon signed the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1974 (P.L. 93-282).

1975—The Community Mental Health Centers Amendments of 1975 outlined requirements for national standards, quality assurance programs, and data collection, which set the stage for performance criterion in community mental health centers.

1977—On February 17, President Jimmy Carter established the President's Commission on Mental Health by executive order. President Carter charged the commission with reviewing the nation’s mental health needs and making recommendations to the president on how best to meet these needs. First Lady Rosalyn Carter served as the honorary chair of the commission.

1978—On April 27, The President's Commission on Mental Health submitted its final report to President Carter. The report contained more than 100 recommendations for expanding existing programs and creating new ones to make the community mental health center program more flexible and to extend mental health services. The report's appendices included three additional volumes with recommendations from more than 20 task panels focused on a wide range of mental health and substance use issues.

1980—In October, NIMH released preliminary results from its Epidemiological Catchment Area Survey. Most notably, the survey found that nearly one in five Americans experienced a diagnosable psychiatric disorder within any six-month period. The effort, underway since 1977, was conducted by research teams at five universities and looked at rates of mental disorders in five cities. The extensive survey allowed for the accurate categorization of specific disorders in a general population for the first time.

1980—On October 7, President Carter signed the Mental Health Systems Act (P.L. 96-398). The act created a complex federal, state, and local partnership focused on preventing mental illnesses. It expanded the Community Mental Health Center program and extended help to "chronically mentally ill individuals, children and youth, elderly individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, women, poor persons, and persons in rural areas."

1980—NIMH participated in developing the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, Toward a National Plan for the Chronically Mentally Ill, a sweeping effort to improve services and fine-tune various federal entitlement programs for those with severe, persistent mental disorders.

1981—On August 13, President Ronald Reagan signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 (P.L. 97-35). This act repealed the Mental Health Systems Act and consolidated the treatment and rehabilitation service programs of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration into a single block grant that enabled each state to administer its allocated funds. With the repeal of most of the community mental health legislation and the establishment of block grants, the federal role shifted to providing technical assistance to increase the capacity of state and local mental health service professionals.

1981—On November 18, intramural NIMH researcher Louis Sokoloff, M.D., Ph.D., received the Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, considered the "American Nobel Prize" of clinical medical research. Previous researchers had found evidence for changing glucose levels in the brain but could not link those changes to specific brain regions. Dr. Sokoloff developed a noninvasive technique to track the movement of a radioactive analog of glucose in the brain, which allowed researchers to measure glucose metabolism and map brain function. This technique paved the way for the development of positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of the living brain.

1983—In research supported by NIMH, zoologist Fernando Nottebohm, Ph.D., discovered the formation of new neurons in the brains of adult songbirds. This evidence of neurogenesis (the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain) opened an exciting and clinically promising new line of research in brain science. It was 15 years, however, before investigators found evidence for continued neurogenesis in the brains of adult humans.

1984—Researchers in the NIMH Intramural Research Program published one of the earliest studies of seasonal affective disorder. The seminal study, which described patients who experienced depressive symptoms that emerged during the fall and winter and went away during the spring and summer, provided the first working definition of the disorder. Norman Rosenthal, M.D., and Thomas Wehr, M.D., both in the NIMH Clinical Psychobiology Branch, led the research. Frederick Goodwin, M.D., NIMH scientific director and chief of intramural research, also contributed. Study results also showed that light therapy had a robust antidepressant effect, effectively reducing depressive symptoms in people with seasonal affective disorder.

1987—On October 1, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services transferred administrative control of St. Elizabeths Hospital from NIMH to the city of Washington, D.C. NIMH retained research facilities on the hospital grounds.

1987—The FDA approved SSRIs for treating depression. Building on the pioneering work of Dr. Axelrod and others at NIMH, researchers demonstrated the effectiveness of SSRIs as antidepressant medications. In the decades following FDA approval, SSRIs became one of the most widely prescribed antidepressants in the world due in part to their relatively mild side effects compared to other medications.

1989—On July 25, in response to reports by the advisory councils of NIMH and the  National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, President George H.W. Bush signed a declaration proclaiming the 1990s the "Decade of the Brain."

1989—On September 25, NIMH staff, members of Congress, and mental health advocates attended a ceremony for the dedication of the NIMH Neuroscience Center and the NIMH Neuropsychiatric Research Hospital, located on the St. Elizabeths Hospital grounds.

1991—Psychologist Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D., and colleagues published findings from their NIMH-supported research on dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a new treatment approach for people with borderline personality disorder. DBT enhanced standard change-oriented techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy with concepts of acceptance and validation of one’s present situation and emotional state. DBT also focused on helping people build skills to manage intense emotions, reduce self-destructive behaviors, and improve relationships. This study and later research showed that adults who received DBT engaged in fewer and less severe suicidal behaviors, had fewer inpatient days in the hospital, and were more likely to stay in therapy than those who received standard care. Later studies showed DBT to reduce suicidal behavior in adolescents. Later in her career, Dr. Linehan discussed her lived experience and how it helped inform novel strategies to treat mental illness and reduce suicide risk.

1992—On July 10, President Bush signed the ADAMHA Reorganization Act (P.L. 102-321), abolishing the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration. The research components of NIMH, NIAAA, and NIDA rejoined NIH, thereby reuniting NIMH with the leading medical research agency in the United States and ensuring the future of neuroscience and mental health research. The service components of each institute became part of a new U.S. Public Health Service agency—the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Within NIMH, new offices were created to support research on prevention, special populations, rural mental health, and HIV/AIDS.

1993—NIMH coordinated a multi-institute effort to launch the Human Brain Project, a comprehensive neuroscience database accessible via an international computer network through cutting-edge imaging, computer, and network technologies.

1996—On October 3, President Bill Clinton established the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. The commission issued the resulting report, Research Involving Persons With Mental Disorders that may affect Decisionmaking Capacity, in 1999. This report informed NIMH policies to safeguard and improve protections for human participants in clinical mental health research.

1996—On July 18, NIMH initiated planning to integrate the Institute's peer review system for neuroscience, behavioral and social science, and AIDS research applications into the overall NIH peer review system.

1997—At the request of Congress, NIH created the NIH Autism Coordinating Committee to increase the quality of research on autism spectrum disorder. The director of NIMH was made co-chair of the committee along with the director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

1998—In September, NIMH launched several long-term, large-scale, multisite, community-based clinical studies to determine the effectiveness of certain treatments. Specifically, the studies focused on treatments for depression, treatments for bipolar disorder, and antipsychotic medications as part of treatment for schizophrenia and the management of psychosis and behavioral symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease.

1999—The NIMH Neuroscience Center and NIMH Neuropsychiatric Research Hospital were relocated from St. Elizabeths Hospital grounds in Washington, D.C., to the NIH Campus in Bethesda, Maryland, in response to the recommendations of the 1996 review of the NIMH Intramural Research Program by the Intramural Planning Committee.

1999—In June, NIMH developed materials and helped organize the first White House Conference on Mental Health in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together national leaders, mental health scientific and clinical personnel, patients, and consumers to discuss needs and opportunities to understand and treat mental disorders.

1999—In July, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., released The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent Suicide. Another report, Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, followed in December. NIMH and other federal agencies collaborated to prepare both landmark reports.

1999—In December, the main findings from the Multimodal Treatment of ADHD study were published. NIMH sponsored the multisite study to compare the leading treatment approaches for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), one of the most common developmental disorders in childhood. Study participants included nearly 600 children, ages 7-9 years, seen at six study sites. In contrast to previous short-term studies, this study examined treatment effects for up to 14 months. Results showed that a combination treatment approach that included both medication and behavior therapy and a medication-only approach were both generally more effective in reducing ADHD symptoms compared to behavioral treatment alone or routine community care. The study also showed that these benefits lasted for as long as 14 months. Subsequent analyses and publications examined the impact of the interventions on various areas of functioning and the long-term course of youth in the study.

2000—On October 9, Eric Kandel, M.D., Ph.D., Paul Greengard, Ph.D., and Arvid Carlsson, M.D., Ph.D., the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their respective research on the functioning of signal transduction proteins in learning, memory, and movement. Dr. Kandel and Dr. Greengard conducted NIMH-supported research for more than 30 years. Dr. Kandel, who worked in the NIMH Intramural Research Program in the 1950s, received the prize for his research on the functional modification of synapses, which allow neurons to communicate in the brain. His work established that the formation of memories is a consequence of short- and long-term changes in the biochemistry of neurons and showed that these changes occur at the level of synapses.

The Nobel Prize recognized Dr. Greengard's discovery that dopamine and several other transmitters can alter the functional state of neuronal proteins. These findings made it clear that signaling between neurons could alter their function not only in the short term but also in the long term. In addition, Dr. Greengard discovered that subsequent environmental signals could reverse such changes.

2000—On October 17, President Clinton signed the Children’s Health Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-310), which created the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee to coordinate all autism-related efforts within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. By 2001, NIMH had been designated to lead implementation of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, with the NIMH director as the committee chair.

2000—On November 3, Nancy Andreasen, M.D., Ph.D., a psychiatrist whose research was supported by NIMH for many years, received the National Medal of Science for her groundbreaking work in schizophrenia that joined behavioral science with neuroscience and neuroimaging.

2000—NIMH and other federal agencies collaborated to prepare a Report on the Surgeon General's Conference, Children's Mental Health: A National Action Agenda. Released by Surgeon General Dr. Satcher,  this report indicated that the poor mental health of many children and adolescents in the United States represented a national public health crisis. The National Action Agenda outlined goals and strategies to improve services for children and adolescents with mental and emotional disorders.

2002—In September, NIMH published a national conference report, Mental Health and Mass Violence: Evidence-Based Early Psychological Intervention for Victims/Survivors of Mass Violence: A Workshop to Reach Consensus on Best Practices. Although most people recover from a traumatic event over time, the report indicated that early psychological intervention guided by qualified mental health professionals could reduce the harmful psychological and emotional effects of exposure to mass violence. NIMH collaborated with the U.S. Department of Defense, other federal agencies, and the American Red Cross to prepare this report.

2003—NIMH established the Limited Access Data Repository, the institute's first effort to provide an infrastructure that could support data sharing among extensive NIMH-funded clinical studies. The repository served as a platform for researchers to access datasets to conduct secondary analyses until 2017, when data from those clinical trials were moved to the NIMH Data Archive.

2004—NIMH’s large-scale practical clinical trial—The Treatment of Adolescent Depression Study—published significant first-phase results on the most effective treatment for adolescents with depression. The study showed that a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and the medication fluoxetine (the only FDA-approved antidepressant for children and adolescents at the time) was most effective at treating depression over 12 weeks.

The study's principal investigator, John March, M.D., M.P.H., presented additional results to NIMH’s National Advisory Mental Health Council in September 2006. These results, which extended the study’s time frame to 18 weeks, once again showed that the combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and fluoxetine provided the fastest, most effective treatment for adolescent depression. Although psychotherapy alone was a viable option for adolescents who could not take medication, it took an additional six months to achieve the improvement seen with treatment that included medication.

2005—The Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness research program—another NIMH large-scale practical clinical trial— provided the first real-world test of antipsychotic medications for people with schizophrenia. Its first phase compared the effectiveness and side effects of four newer medications and one older medication for treating schizophrenia. All the medications—even the older, less expensive medication, perphenazine—showed comparable effectiveness. However, many people in the study stopped taking the medications due to intolerable side effects or a failure to control symptoms adequately.

Results from the first phase of the study were released in 2006 and showed that antipsychotic medications commonly prescribed to treat delusions, aggression, hallucinations, and similar symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease could also benefit some people with schizophrenia. Still, the medications were no more effective than a placebo when considering adverse side effects. The study advanced the field by directly comparing multiple antipsychotic drugs within a single trial. The extensive information provided by this direct comparison helped clinicians determine the best medication for individual patients.

2006—The NIMH-funded Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) research program reported a series of results over the course of the year. A large-scale practical clinical trial led by NIMH, the study was the nation’s largest clinical trial of treatments for depression at the time. The systematic study showed that about 70% of participants achieved symptom-free status after 12 months, and many participants needed to try two or three medications before finding one that worked for them. The results provided real-world insight into depression treatment, highlighting the limitations of existing treatments and alternate options for people who do not respond to SSRIs. The study helped move the field toward personalized, measurement-based approaches to depression care.

2006—On September 29, Aaron T. Beck, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and a longtime NIMH-supported researcher, received the prestigious Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for the development of cognitive behavioral therapy.

2006—On December 19, President George W. Bush signed the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-416). The measure called for increased research on autism spectrum disorder. The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, co-chaired by the NIMH director, was also reauthorized and chartered as a federal advisory committee.

2007—Findings from the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder research project, an NIMH practical clinical trial, revealed that people with bipolar disorder were more likely to recover from a depressive episode and stay well over the longer term if their treatment included both intensive psychotherapy and medication.

2008—In August, NIMH published its Strategic Plan for Research (link is external) with four primary objectives:

  • Promote discovery in the brain and behavioral sciences to fuel research on the causes of mental disorders
  • Chart mental illness trajectories to determine when, where, and how to intervene
  • Develop new and better interventions that incorporate the diverse needs and circumstances of people with mental illnesses
  • Strengthen the public health impact of NIMH-supported research

2008—The Child/Adolescent Anxiety Multimodal Study examined strategies for treating clinically significant anxiety among children ages 7-17 years. Results of the six-site clinical trial revealed that, although the combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medication was most effective at treating anxiety, each treatment alone was also effective. The findings indicated that clinicians and families have several viable treatment options for young people with anxiety disorders, depending on treatment availability and preferences.

2008—The Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS) launched as a partnership between NIMH and the U.S. Army to conduct research to help reduce suicide rates among members of the military. The multisite, multiyear study, which included soldiers in all phases of service, was the largest study of mental health risk and resilience ever conducted among military personnel.

The study showed a rise in suicide deaths from 2004 to 2009, not only among currently and previously deployed soldiers but also among soldiers who were never deployed. Nearly half of soldiers who reported a previous suicide attempt indicated that their first attempt was prior to enlistment. Soldiers also reported higher rates of certain mental disorders than civilians. Results from Army STARRS have informed actionable strategies to enhance mental health and reduce suicide risk among members of the military and civilians.

2008—Twelve NIMH staff members received the 2008 Hubert H. Humphrey Award for Service to America for their work addressing veterans' mental health needs. These staff members developed a new research initiative to support research that would describe and evaluate national, state, and local programs addressing the mental health needs of returning service members and their families.

2009—The NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research launched the Human Connectome Project as a Blueprint Grand Challenge. Supported by NIMH and other Blueprint partners, the Human Connectome Project aimed to map the neural pathways that underlie human brain function. The effort expanded to measuring macroscale brain connections across the lifespan. The project led to new data models, informatics, and analytic tools that advanced researchers' ability to image and analyze brain connections. These advances played a major role in accelerating progress in the emerging human connectomics field and contributed to the formation of the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® Initiative, or The BRAIN Initiative®.

2009—The Treatment of SSRI-Resistant Depression in Adolescents research project was an NIMH-funded practical clinical trial that examined difficult-to-treat depression among adolescents across multiple sites. The study showed that teens who did not respond to a first antidepressant medication were more likely to see symptom improvement if they switched to another antidepressant and added psychotherapy instead of only switching medications.

2010—In July, NIMH launched the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative, providing a research framework for developing new ways of classifying mental disorders based on behavioral dimensions and neurobiological measures. The intent was to apply modern research approaches in genetics, neuroscience, and behavioral science to studying mental illnesses independently from the classification systems by which patients were typically grouped.

2010—On November 10, NIMH intramural researcher Mortimer Mishkin, Ph.D., was awarded the National Medal of Science at a White House ceremony. In studies spanning more than five decades, Dr. Mishkin and colleagues examined the neural mechanisms underlying perception and memory. Dr. Mishkin's work explored how the brain processes input from vision, hearing, and touch to encode memory and shed light on the organization of memory and memory disorders in humans.

2011—On July 6, the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health initiative began. Co-led and funded by NIMH, the Grand Challenges brought together the largest-ever international Delphi panel—more than 400 participants representing work conducted in 60 countries—to determine priorities for research relevant to mental, neurological, and substance use disorders.

2011—On August 25, NIMH was named by the White House as a "Champion of Change" for its efforts supporting research on suicide prevention. The initiative celebrated diverse individuals and organizations making an impact in communities and helping the country rise to the challenges of the 21st century.

2012—On August 31, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order (link is external) directing key federal departments, including NIH, to expand suicide prevention strategies and improve access to mental health and substance abuse treatment services for veterans, service members, and their families. The order also called for developing a National Research Action Plan with strategies to improve the diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions. NIMH led NIH’s participation in the action plan, which made significant progress in establishing common data elements to guide research on traumatic stress and suicide risk prevention and developing scalable interventions for PTSD and suicide prevention.

2012—Researchers in the NIMH Intramural Research Program published the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) measure—a brief screening instrument clinicians can administer in 20 seconds to identify a patient's risk for suicide. An NIMH-led multisite study showed that a "yes" to any of the measure’s four questions identified 97% of young people at risk for suicide among those screened in pediatric emergency departments. Additional NIMH research subsequently validated the ASQ in pediatric inpatient care and integrated it into an evidence-based pathway for youth suicide prevention. This pathway served as a scientific basis for the Blueprint for Youth Suicide Prevention developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

In 2014, intramural researchers led a multisite study that confirmed the ASQ as a valid screening tool for suicide risk in adults. The researchers then expanded these studies into an ASQ Toolkit that clinicians can use to identify and manage suicide risk in both children and adults in a variety of medical settings. Intramural researchers have also worked with NIMH experts in global mental health and international collaborators to translate the ASQ into more than 20 languages and validate the ASQ through research in other countries. By enabling culturally responsive early identification and assessment of people at high risk for suicide, the ASQ Toolkit has enhanced suicide prevention for youth and adults in medical settings worldwide.

2013—On April 2, President Obama announced the launch of the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative or The BRAIN Initiative®——a major initiative focused on revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. The president proposed $100 million for the first year of what he called “the next great American project.” NIH, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Science Foundation, and several private laboratories and foundations began working to develop the next generation of tools for decoding the language of the brain. Building on recent discoveries, the BRAIN Initiative aimed to accelerate the development and application of innovative technologies to produce a revolutionary, dynamic picture of the human brain. This dynamic picture would show how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space, providing unprecedented opportunities to understand brain function and dysfunction.

2013—On September 20, Thomas C. Südhof, M.D., and Richard H. Scheller, Ph.D., received the Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. The researchers, whose work had been supported by NIMH, were recognized for their work mapping the molecular mechanisms involved in neurotransmitter release. Dr. Südhof later received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his NIMH-supported research on how the brain sends and receives chemical messages.

2014—NIMH launched the Emergency Department Screening for Teens at Risk for Suicide study in a network of hospital emergency departments across the United States as a part of the institute’s research agenda for suicide prevention. The study aimed to develop and test a personalized, computer-based suicide risk screening tool for teenagers that could improve screening and enable earlier intervention. In 2021, researchers involved in the study developed a computerized adaptive screening tool, which correctly identified more than 80% of youth who went on to attempt suicide in the three months following screening. The screener has offered a valuable tool for rapidly identifying youth at risk for suicide in emergency departments.

2014—On April 2, the NIMH-funded BrainSpan Atlas of the Developing Human Brain consortium project reported its first major findings. The effort was intended to provide a comprehensive three-dimensional atlas of the brain and profile gene activity across the brain, beginning prenatally.

2014—NIMH adopted a new policy for clinical trials that required future trials to follow an experimental therapeutics approach. Under this mechanism-based approach to intervention development and testing, trials are designed not only to test whether an intervention works but also to advance understanding of how the intervention works. The policy stipulated that clinical trials must also meet new recruitment, data sharing, and reporting standards.

2015—NIMH issued a new Strategic Plan for Research. Informed by the successes and challenges of recent years, the plan updated the strategic objectives outlined in 2008 to balance the need for long-term investments in basic research with urgent mental health needs. The four strategic objectives in the 2015 plan were:

  • Define the mechanisms of complex behaviors.
  • Chart mental illness trajectories to determine when, where, and how to intervene.
  • Strive for prevention and cures.
  • Strengthen the public health impact of NIMH-supported research.

2015—The Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers-Longitudinal Study (STARRS-LS) was launched as an extension of Army STARRS, representing a partnership between NIMH and the U.S. Army, U.S. Department of Defense, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. STARRS-LS researchers continued to analyze Army STARRS data while also collecting new data to learn about suicide risk and mental health among military personnel throughout their Army careers and during the transition to civilian life.

2015—Researchers in NIMH’s Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) initiative reported that treating people with first-episode psychosis using a team-based coordinated specialty care (CSC) approach produced better clinical and functional outcomes than typical community care. Findings from RAISE also showed that treatment was most effective for people who received care soon after psychosis symptoms began. Based on RAISE results, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (link is external) (CMS) posted an informational bulletin (link is external) for state Medicaid directors about covering CSC as an evidence-based treatment for first episode psychosis. The Veterans Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Labor also endorsed CSC. RAISE contributed to a new way to organize and deliver treatment and produced findings that changed the standard of practice for early schizophrenia treatment in the United States.

2015—On February 6, NIMH announced the creation of the Early Psychosis Intervention Network (EPINET), designed to link treatment centers for early psychosis in a network of evidence-based coordinated specialty care programs. The initiative was built on the insights developed during the NIMH RAISE initiative. By 2020, EPINET included a data coordinating center, eight scientific hubs, and more than 100 community clinics in a national learning health system aimed at improving services and outcomes for thousands of people experiencing an initial episode of psychosis.

2017—NIMH supported the launch of a major BRAIN Initiative effort to discover and catalog the brain's "parts list." This effort, known as the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative Cell Census Network, was established as a cooperative network of comprehensive centers, specialized laboratories, and an integrated data center.

2017—On April 29, results published from the Emergency Department Safety Assessment and Follow-up Evaluation study showed that hospital emergency departments can play a vital role in reducing suicide attempts among adults. The study was the largest emergency department-based suicide intervention trial ever conducted in the United States, taking place over five years in eight hospitals across seven states. The results showed that screening, followed by safety planning guidance and periodic phone check-ins after discharge, led to a 30% decrease in suicide attempts compared to standard emergency department care. The study was another example of NIMH’s prioritized suicide prevention research agenda.

2017—On July 11, NIMH proposed the creation of the NIMH  Data Archive to serve as an online resource for investigators seeking to share data, tools, methods, and analyses from research with human participants. The NIMH Data Archive, which was built upon the preexisting National Database for Autism Research, brought together other digital repositories, including the Research Domain Criteria Database, the National Database for Clinical Trials Related to Mental Illness, and the NIH Pediatric MRI Repository.

2018—NIMH released the first data set from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, the largest long-term study of brain development and child health ever conducted in the United States, to the scientific community through the NIMH Data Archive. The comprehensive dataset—including measures of brain development; social, emotional, and cognitive development; mental health; substance use and attitudes; gender identity and sexual health; and various physical health and environmental factors—allowed researchers to address numerous questions related to adolescent brain development to help inform future prevention and treatment efforts, public health strategies, and policy decisions.

2018—NIH launched the Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative as an ambitious, high-priority effort across the institutes to speed scientific solutions to stem the opioid public health crisis. Launched in April 2018, the initiative focused on improving prevention and treatment strategies for opioid misuse and addiction and enhancing pain management. As a major partner in the initiative, NIMH led a research program focused on optimizing the delivery of services for people with opioid use disorder, mental disorders, and suicide risk. NIMH-supported efforts have included research to adapt the collaborative care model to treat co-occurring mental and substance use disorders and a program to reduce suicide deaths by identifying people at risk when seen in primary care settings.

2018—Researchers in the NIMH Intramural Research Program collaborated with the Indian Health Service (IHS) to pilot suicide risk screening in IHS emergency departments serving American Indian/Alaska Native communities. A follow-up quality improvement project further demonstrated the feasibility of suicide risk screening in IHS emergency departments. Intramural researchers subsequently used these findings to guide the implementation of suicide risk screening in more than 100 IHS medical settings (including 22 emergency departments) around the United States.

2019—On March 5, the FDA approved esketamine as a fast-acting and noninvasive treatment for depression that works via a different neurochemical pathway from other antidepressants. In 2006, NIMH intramural researchers Husseini Manji, M.D., and Carlos Zarate, M.D., along with Dennis Charney, M.D., reported findings from the first study investigating intravenous ketamine for people with treatment-resistant depression. They found that ketamine worked by blocking the NMDA receptor in brain cells, producing rapid, robust, and relatively sustained antidepressant effects in people who had already tried several antidepressant medications without seeing improvement. Their research also showed that ketamine stimulated the activity of the AMPA receptor. Dr. Manji built on this finding to produce an alternative way of delivering ketamine in the form of esketamine, which is delivered via nasal spray.

2019—On March 19, the FDA approved the medication brexanolone as the first successful treatment for severe postpartum depression. In the 1980s and 1990s, NIMH intramural researcher Steven Paul, M.D., showed that the neurosteroid allopregnanolone promoted anesthesia during pregnancy by stimulating the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. Subsequent research demonstrated that brexanolone, an intravenous form of allopregnanolone, treated postpartum depression by continuing the stimulation of GABA into the postpartum period.

2019—NIMH established the Advanced Laboratories for Accelerating the Reach and Impact of Treatments for Youth and Adults with Mental Illness research center program to support the advancement of clinical research and practice. The program was designed to leverage practice-based infrastructure, stakeholder engagement, and transdisciplinary research teams capable of incorporating insights from new fields and emerging technologies. These innovative components were expected to speed the translation of research into clinical practice. At launch, the program comprised research teams at eight centers. By 2023, the program had expanded to 14 centers focused on a range of populations and spanning a variety of real-world settings where services are delivered.

2020—In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NIMH funded research to understand the long-term mental health impacts of the pandemic and evaluate scalable interventions that could meet the increased mental health needs of diverse populations. NIMH committed to prioritizing research on COVID-19 and funding studies examining the pandemic’s ongoing impacts and effective ways to support mental health during public health emergencies.

2020—NIMH published a new NIMH Strategic Plan for Research, which provided a framework for research to leverage new opportunities for scientific exploration and addressed new challenges in mental health. The four goals outlined in the 2020 plan formed a broad roadmap for the institute's research priorities, ranging from fundamental science to public health impact:

  • Define the Brain Mechanisms Underlying Complex Behaviors
  • Examine Mental Illness Trajectories Across the Life Span
  • Strive for Prevention and Cures
  • Strengthen the Public Health Impact of NIMH-Supported Research

2020—NIH launched a public-private partnership to meet the urgent need for early therapeutic interventions for people at risk of developing schizophrenia. Part of the Accelerating Medicines Partnership® (AMP®) brought together NIH, the FDA, and multiple nonprofit and private organizations in a united effort to better understand underlying biological pathways and identify new treatment targets.

2021—The BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network unveiled an atlas of cell types and an anatomical neuronal wiring diagram for the mammalian primary motor cortex, derived from detailed studies of mice, monkeys, and humans. This publicly available resource represented the culmination of an international collaboration by more than 250 scientists at more than 45 institutions across three continents. The findings appeared in 17 associated papers published in a dedicated issue of the journal Nature.

2021—In December, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., issued The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Protecting Youth Mental Health. The advisory, developed with input from NIMH and other federal agencies, recognized mental health as an essential part of overall health and acknowledged the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth mental health. The advisory included recommendations to increase timely data collection and research to identify and respond to youth mental health needs.

2022—NIMH supported the launch of two transformative projects through the BRAIN Initiative: the BRAIN Initiative Cell Atlas Network and the Armamentarium for Precision Brain Cell Access. The BRAIN Initiative Cell Atlas Network represented the next step in NIH’s efforts to generate a complete reference atlas of cell types and circuits in the human brain across the lifespan. The Armamentarium for Precision Brain Cell Access aimed to generate tools that would allow researchers to target specific brain cells and neural circuits. Together, these BRAIN 2.0 projects aimed to transform our understanding of brain cell types and provide the precise tools needed to access them, helping unravel the complex workings of the human brain and inform treatments of brain disorders.

2023—The White House Report on Mental Health Research Priorities, published in February, outlined administration-wide needs and opportunities to advance mental health research. Areas of emphasis included addressing mental health inequities, understanding and leveraging digital mental health interventions, and supporting and expanding the mental health workforce. NIMH substantively contributed to the development of the report, which highlighted several NIMH-supported research initiatives.

2023—In May, U.S. Surgeon General Murthy issued The U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory on Social Media and Youth Mental Health. The advisory called for urgent action to clarify the mental health impacts of social media use, maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of social media platforms, and create safer and healthier online environments. NIMH and other federal agencies advised on the preparation of the report.

2023—NIMH celebrated its 75th anniversary. A yearlong program of events launched with the inaugural scientific symposium, "The Evolution of Mental Health Research." Over the anniversary year, NIMH sponsored numerous activities, including symposiums, lectures, and sessions at scientific meetings. NIMH also shared stories of discovery and inspiration from its past, present, and future.

NIMH Legislative Chronology

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

1930—P.L. 71-357 redesignated the PHS Narcotics Division as the Division of Mental Hygiene.

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

1949—NIMH was established April 1.

1953—Reorganization Plan No. 1 assigned PHS to the newly created U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

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

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

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

1965—P.L. 89-105, amendments to P.L. 88-164, provided for grants to staff the new community mental health centers.

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

1968—January 1, NIMH became a component of the newly created Health Services and Mental Health Administration.

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

1970—P.L. 91-211, Community Mental Health Centers Amendments of 1970, authorized construction and staffing of centers for three additional years, prioritizing areas with a high number of people experiencing poverty.

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

P.L. 91-6162-255, Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act, established the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism within NIMH.

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

1973—NIMH rejoined NIH. NIMH later became a component of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA).

1974—P.L. 93-282, the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1974, authorized the establishment of ADAMHA.

1978—P.L. 95-622, the Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC) Extension Act of 1978, revised and extended programs under the CMHC Act and established the President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research.

1979—P.L. 96-88, the Department of Education Organization Act, created the Department of Education and renamed HEW the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

1980—P.L. 96-398, the Mental Health Systems Act expanded the community mental health centers program and created a federal-state-local partnership to help the chronically ill, children, the elderly, minorities, women, the poor, and rural populations.

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

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

1984—P.L. 98-509, Alcohol Abuse, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Amendments, authorized funding for block grants for fiscal years 1985 through 1987 and extended authorizations for federal activities in alcohol and drug abuse research, information dissemination, and development of new treatment methods.

1986—P.L. 99-660, The State Comprehensive Mental Health Services Plan Act required states to submit to HHS community-based mental health services plans for the chronically mentally ill.

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

2000—P.L. 106-310, The Children's Health Act of 2000, Title I Autism expanded and coordinated activities of the NIH with respect to research on autism, including the establishment of not less than five centers of excellence to conduct basic and clinical research into autism. The act also mandated that the HHS Secretary establish an Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) to coordinate autism research. NIMH was designated the NIH lead for this activity.

2006—P.L. 109-416, the Combating Autism Act of 2006, provided for expanded activities related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD)-related research, surveillance, prevention, treatment, and education. The act called for NIH-funded research to address the entire scope of ASD; provided for a review of regional centers of excellence for autism research and epidemiology; authorized activities to increase public awareness, improve the use of evidence-based interventions, and increase early screening for autism; and called on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee to enhance information sharing.

2010—P.L. 111-148, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, contained a section encouraging NIMH to continue relevant research on the mental health effects of pregnancy outcomes, including carrying to term and parenting, placing for adoption, miscarriage, and abortion., The Act also contained a “Sense of the Congress” authorizing the NIMH Director to conduct a longitudinal study of the “relative mental health consequences for women of resolving a pregnancy.”

2014—P.L. 113-157, the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act of 2014 reauthorized federal efforts related to autism spectrum disorder within HHS. The legislation directed the HHS Secretary to designate an existing HHS official to implement ASD activities, taking into account the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Strategic Plan, and to ensure that federal ASD activities were not unnecessarily duplicative; expanded the IACC membership; requested a report on young adults and transitioning youth; and reauthorized the IACC and authorized appropriations for fiscal years 2015 through 2019.

2016P.L. 114-255, the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, provided critical tools and resources to advance biomedical research. The legislation authorized multiyear funding to four new innovative scientific initiatives at NIH—the All of Us Research Program; the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative; the Cancer Moonshot; and the Regenerative Medicine Innovation ProjectThe law also appointed the directors of NIMH, NIDA, and NIAAA as ex-officio members of various SAMHSA advisory councils.

2019 – P.L. 116-60, the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act of 2019 reauthorized federal efforts related to ASD within HHS as noted in P.L. 113-157 and authorized appropriations through fiscal year 2024. The legislation enhanced NIH ASD activities, reauthorized the IACC and expanded the committee membership, and requested a report on the health and well-being of individuals with ASD across the lifespan. NIMH continued to be the designated NIH lead for this activity.

Biographical Sketch of NIMH Director, Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D.

Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D. Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D.

Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., is the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders.

Dr. Gordon pursued a combined M.D.-Ph.D. degree at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Medical school coursework in psychiatry and neuroscience convinced him that the greatest need, and greatest promise, for biomedical science was in these areas. During his Ph.D. thesis with Dr. Michael Stryker, Dr. Gordon pioneered the methods necessary to study brain plasticity in the mouse visual system.

Upon completion of the dual degree program at UCSF, Dr. Gordon went to Columbia University for his psychiatry residency and research fellowship because of the breadth and depth of the research opportunities there. Working with Dr. Rene Hen, Dr. Gordon and colleagues studied the role of the hippocampus, a brain structure known to be important for memory and emotional processes associated with anxiety and depression. He joined the Columbia faculty in 2004 as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry.

Dr. Gordon’s research focuses on the analysis of neural activity in mice carrying mutations of relevance to psychiatric disease. His lab studied genetic models of these diseases from an integrative neuroscience perspective, focused on understanding how a given disease mutation leads to a behavioral phenotype across multiple levels of analysis. To this end, he employs a range of systems neuroscience techniques, including in vivo imaging, anesthetized and awake behavioral recordings, and optogenetics, which is the use of light to control neural activity. His research has direct relevance to schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and depression.

In addition to his research, Dr. Gordon was an associate director of the Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute Adult Psychiatry Residency Program, where he directed the neuroscience curriculum and administered research training programs for residents. He also maintained a general psychiatric practice, caring for patients who suffer from the illnesses he studied in his lab at Columbia.

Dr. Gordon’s work has been recognized by several prestigious awards, including the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation’s NARSAD Young Investigator Award, the Rising Star Award from the International Mental Health Research Organization, the A.E. Bennett Research Award from the Society of Biological Psychiatry, and the Daniel H. Efron Research Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

NIMH Directors

Name In Office from To
Robert H. Felix 1949 1964
Stanley F. Yolles 1964 1970
Bertram S. Brown 1970 1977
Francis N. Waldrop (Acting) 1977 1978
Herbert Pardes 1978 1984
Larry Silver (Acting) 1984 1984
Shervert H. Frazier 1984 1986
Frank J. Sullivan (Acting) 1986 1988
Lewis L. Judd 1988 1990
Alan I. Leshner (Acting) 1990 1992
Frederick K. Goodwin 1992 1994
Rex William Cowdry (Acting) 1994 1996
Steven E. Hyman 1996 2001
Richard K. Nakamura (Acting) 2001 2002
Thomas R. Insel 2002 2015
Bruce Cuthbert (Acting) 2015 2016

Joshua A. Gordon

2016 Present

NIMH Programs

Offices and Divisions

Office of the Director

Office on AIDS
Office of Autism Research Coordination
Office of Clinical Research
Office of Genomics Research Coordination
Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity
Office of Management
Office of Rural Mental Health Research
Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications
Office of Technology Development and Coordination

Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science

The Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science (DNBBS) provides support for research programs in the areas of basic neuroscience, genetics, basic behavioral science, research training, resource development, technology development, drug discovery, and research dissemination. The Division has the responsibility, in cooperation with other components of the Institute and the research community, for ensuring that relevant basic science knowledge is generated and then harvested to create improved diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental and behavioral disorders.

Areas of High Priority:

  • Develop new and use existing physiological and computational models to understand the biological functions of genes, gene products, cells, and brain circuits in normal and abnormal mental function.
  • Elucidate how cognitive, affect, stress, and motivational processes interact and their role(s) in mental disorders through functional studies spanning levels of analysis (genomic, molecular, cellular, circuits, behavior) during development and throughout the life span.
  • Elucidate fundamental mechanisms (e.g., genetic, biological, behavioral, environmental) of complex social behavior.
  • Identify in diverse populations from the United States and around the world genetic variants, epigenetic mechanisms, and gene-environment interactions that influence vulnerability to mental disorders, endophenotypes, and pharmacologic response profiles.
  • Identify biological markers (e.g., genetic, proteomic, imaging) in model systems and humans that could be further validated as methods for diagnosing and/or detecting risk/vulnerability, onset, progress, and/or severity of mental disorders.
  • Identify and validate new molecular targets and tools for drug discovery relevant to the treatment of mental disorders.

Branches within the Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science

Behavioral Science and Integrative Neuroscience Research Branch
Genomics Research Branch
Molecular, Cellular, and Genomic Neuroscience Research Branch
Office of Research Training and Career Development
Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs

Division of Translational Research

The Division of Translational Research (DTR) directs, plans, and supports programs of research and research training that translate knowledge from basic science to discover the etiology, pathophysiology, and trajectory of mental disorders, and develops effective interventions for children and adults. DTR supports integrative, multidisciplinary research on the following areas: the phenotypic characterization and risk factors for psychiatric disorders; neurobehavioral mechanisms of psychopathology; trajectories of risk and resilience based on the interactive influences of genetics, brain development, environment, and experience; and design and testing of innovative psychosocial, psychopharmacologic, and somatic treatment interventions.

Areas of High Priority:

  • Delineate specific neural circuits contributing to one or more major mental disorders or subtypes of mental disorders.
  • Develop, test, and validate biological markers (e.g., genetic, proteomic, imaging) for diagnosing or detecting risk/vulnerability, onset, progression, and/or severity of mental disorders to prevent disorders, serve as criteria to personalize treatment, and evaluate treatment response.
  • Develop models to predict treatment response and vulnerability to side effects of psychotropic medications and approaches to prevent or ameliorate treatment-emergent side effects (e.g., delineate the mechanisms through which specific psychotropic medications produce adverse metabolic and cardiovascular events, and begin to develop models to predict which patients are at high risk for developing these complications.
  • Identify mechanisms (e.g., genetic, biological, behavioral, environmental) that confer vulnerability to psychiatric illnesses, and develop early interventions (pharmacological and/or psychosocial) for reducing the severity and incidence of psychopathology.
  • Evaluate the safety and efficacy of novel mechanism pharmacological agents and/or behavioral interventions that target domains of psychopathology inadequately addressed by current therapies or prevention strategies.
  • Develop, test, and validate methods to assess domains of psychopathology for use in clinical trials in order to increase the efficiency of the mental illness treatment development critical path, emphasizing approaches based on partnerships with FDA and industry.
  • Delineate neurobehavioral mechanisms responsible for the development of psychopathology, including critical and sensitive periods in brain development and the effects of sex, behavior, and experience on the brain.
  • Utilize behavioral phenotypes reflecting dimensional processes (e.g., attention, mood regulation) to maximize discovery of underlying neural systems and genes, and refine behavioral assessment tools so that they are comparable across age, species, and social experience (e.g., socioeconomic status, culture).
  • Test integrative models incorporating biological, behavioral, and experiential factors in the development of psychopathology, and utilize longitudinal research to track trajectories of risk and protection based on the combined and interactive influences among these factors.
  • Based on expanded knowledge of neurobehavioral trajectories, identify early signs of risk and develop novel and targeted preventive and treatment interventions.
  • Assess the mechanisms of action of efficacious interventions in the brain.

Branches within the Division of Translational Research

Adult Psychopathology and Psychosocial Intervention Research Branch
Adult Pathophysiology and Biological Interventions Development Branch
Developmental Mechanisms and Trajectories of Psychopathology Branch
Geriatrics and Aging Processes Research Branch
Developmental Mechanisms and Trajectories of Psychopathology Branch
Biomarker and Intervention Development for Childhood-Onset Mental Disorders Branch
Traumatic Stress Research Program
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program (Adult Psychopathology)
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program (Child Psychopathology)
Research Training and Career Development Program

Division of AIDS Research

The Division of AIDS Research (DAR) supports research to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS worldwide and to decrease the burden of living with HIV/AIDS. DAR-supported research encompasses a broad range of studies that includes basic and clinical neuroscience of HIV infection to understand and alleviate the consequences of HIV infection of the central nervous system (CNS), and basic and applied behavioral science to prevent new HIV infections and limit morbidity and mortality among those infected. DAR places a high priority on interdisciplinary research across multiple populations, including racial and ethnic minorities, over the life span.

The portfolio on the basic neuroscience of HIV infection includes research to elucidate the mechanisms underlying HIV-induced neuropathogenesis; to understand the motor and cognitive impairments that result from HIV infection of the CNS; to develop novel treatments to prevent or mitigate the neurobehavioral complications of HIV infection; and to minimize the neurotoxicities induced by long-term use of antiretroviral therapy. Critical approaches to this effort require molecular, cellular, and genetic studies to delineate the pathophysiologic mechanisms that lead to disrupted neuronal function and to identify potential targets for therapeutic intervention. In addition, eradication of the virus from HIV-infected individuals to achieve a cure or a functional cure is a high priority.

The behavioral science research agenda emphasizes developing and testing behavioral interventions that can be effectively integrated with biomedical approaches to significantly impact the epidemic. The behavioral science agenda targets prevention of both transmission and acquisition of HIV, adherence to intervention components to reduce the burden of disease, and studies that address the behavioral consequences of HIV/AIDS. A strong component of integrating behavioral and biomedical approaches is expanding collaboration with other NIH institutes and federal agencies to leverage resources and broaden the impact of this research.

Areas of High Priority:

  • Expand approaches to integrate behavioral science with effective biomedical strategies for HIV prevention.
  • Advance the development and testing of interventions delivered beyond the individual level, by incorporating appropriate context into intervention development and testing.
  • Increase intervention potency and long-term maintenance of effects, with an emphasis on targeting high-risk vulnerable populations.
  • Develop strategies to increase HIV-testing and improve linkage to care and timely treatment initiation.
  • Develop and test interventions to improve HIV treatment outcomes through optimal treatment adherence and sustained engagement in care.
  • Support implementation science and operations research to enhance dissemination strategies and public health impact of effective interventions.
  • Examine evolving pathophysiologic mechanisms of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) in the setting of long-term antiretroviral therapy and the development of novel therapeutic approaches to mitigate CNS complications of HIV infection.
  • Support the use of state-of-the-art genetic approaches to identify and validate viral and host genetic factors that influence the pathophysiology of HAND.
  • Define and characterize HIV persistence in the CNS in the context of suppressive highly active antiretroviral therapy, and foster translational research to enable therapeutic eradication of HIV-1 from the brain.

Branches within the Division of AIDS Research

Developmental and Clinical Neuroscience of HIV Prevention and Treatment Branch
HIV Prevention and Care Continuum, Co-Morbidities, and Translational Research Branch
HIV Neuropathogenesis, Genetics, and Therapeutics Branch
AIDS Research Centers Program
Training, Fellowship, and Health Disparities Programs
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program

Division of Services and Intervention Research

The Division of Services and Intervention Research supports two critical areas of research:

  • Intervention research to evaluate the effectiveness of pharmacologic, psychosocial (psychotherapeutic and behavioral), somatic, rehabilitative, and combination interventions on mental and behavior disorders, including acute and longer-term therapeutic effects on functioning across domains (such as school, family, and peer functioning) for children, adolescents, and adults.
  • Mental health services research.

The interventions focus is broad and inclusive with respect to the heterogeneity of patients, the severity and chronicity of disorders, and the variety of community and institutional settings in which treatment is provided. It includes clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness of known efficacious interventions as well as studies evaluating modified or adapted forms of interventions for use with additional populations (such as women and ethnic and racial groups), new settings (public sector, pediatric primary care, schools, other non-academic settings, communities at large), and people with co-occurring disorders. Other foci include: identifying subgroups who may be more likely to benefit from treatment, evaluating the combined or sequential use of interventions (such as to extend effect among refractory subgroups), determining the optimal length of intervention, establishing the utility of continuation or maintenance treatment (that is, for prevention of relapse or recurrence), and evaluating the long-term impact of efficacious interventions on symptoms and functioning.

Services research covers all mental health services research issues across the life span and disorders, including but not limited to:

  • Services organization, delivery (process and receipt of care), and related health economics at the individual, clinical, program, community, and systems levels in specialty mental health, general health, and other delivery settings (such as the workplace).
  • Interventions to improve the quality and outcomes of care (including diagnostic, treatment, preventive, and rehabilitation services).
  • Enhanced capacity for conducting services research.
  • The clinical epidemiology of mental disorders across all clinical and service settings.
  • The dissemination and implementation of evidence-based interventions into service settings.

The Division also provides biostatistical analysis and clinical trials operations expertise for research studies; analyzes and evaluates national mental health needs and community research partnership opportunities; and supports research on health disparities.

Areas of High Priority:

  • Develop innovative interventions, including treatment regimens, prevention strategies, and innovative service delivery approaches; and personalize them for optimal use in diverse populations (e.g., across geographic locations, underserved groups, those with comorbid conditions, and all age groups).
  • Test interventions through effectiveness research and practical clinical trials, to ensure that they are safe, maximize recovery and functioning, are cost-effective, and are personalized (e.g., by determining optimal lengths, combinations, and sequences of interventions as well as subgroups in which they work best).
  • Reduce the significant burden and mortality associated with suicidality through research on early detection, assessment, interventions, and services for individuals at risk in populations of all ages.
  • Identify effective dissemination and implementation processes and mechanisms to increase the uptake of scientifically informed treatments and services.
  • Employ strategic partnerships and community engagement/participation to enhance research capacity and infrastructure to conduct research in underserved and diverse populations as well as in traditional and nontraditional service settings.
  • Identify new targets for innovative intervention (development/refinement) and service delivery models through research that examines the burdens from mental illness as well as the current use, benefits, safety, costs, and unmet needs for mental health care.

Branches within the Division of Services and Intervention Research

Treatment and Preventive Intervention Research Branch
Services Research and Clinical Epidemiology Branch
Office of Research Training and Career Development
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs

Division of Extramural Activities (DEA)

The Division of Extramural Activities: (1) provides leadership and advice in developing, implementing, and coordinating extramural programs and policies; (2) represents the Institute on extramural program and policy issues within the Department and with outside organizations; (3) provides scientific and technical peer and objective review of applications for grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts; (4) provides information and guidelines for grant applications; (5) oversees National Advisory Mental Health Council activities; (6) provides committee management services for peer review, council, and any other Federal Advisory Committee Act--related committee meetings that are required at NIMH; and (7) awards grants, ensuring that applications chosen for funding comply with federal laws, regulations, and policies prior to award, which involves critical communication with the grantee throughout the pre-award, award, and post-award processes.

Branches within the Division of Extramural Activities (DEA)

Extramural Policy Branch
Grants Management Branch
Extramural Review Branch

Division of Intramural Research Programs

The Division of Intramural Research Programs (DIRP) at the National Institute of Mental Health is the internal research division of NIMH. The Division plans and conducts basic, clinical, and translational research to advance understanding of the diagnosis, causes, treatment, and prevention of psychiatric disorders. DIRP conducts state-of-the-art research that utilizes the unique resources of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), provides an environment conducive to the training and development of clinical and basic scientists, and, in part, complements extramural research activities.

Labs, Clinics, and Branches

Behavioral Endocrinology Branch
Clinical and Translational Neuroscience Branch

Emotion and Development Branch
Experimental Therapeutics & Pathophysiology Branch
Functional Neural Circuits Unit
Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch
Human Genetics Branch
Laboratory of Brain and Cognition
Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Regulation
Laboratory of Molecular Biology
Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology

Laboratory of Neuropsychology

Molecular Imaging Branch
Section on Behavioral Neuroscience
Section on Critical Brain Dynamics
Section on Light and Circadian Rhythms (SLCR)
Section on Neuroadaptation and Protein Metabolism
Section on Neurobiology of Fear and Anxiety
Section on Neuroplasticity
Section on Synapse Development Plasticity
Unit on Neural Computation and Behavior
Unit on Neurobiology of Affective Memory
Unit on Neuromodulation and Synaptic Integration

Sections & Units Attached to the Scientific Director’s Office

Section on Affective Cognitive Neuroscience
Unit on Statistical Genomics
Unit on Neuroplasticity

Unit on Neural Computation and Behavior
Unit on Genetics of Cognition & Behavior
Section on Fundamental Neuroscience
Section on Neuroadaptation and Protein Metabolism
Section on Neurobiology of Fear and Anxiety
Section on Neuroendocrine Immunology
Section on Pharmacology

This page last reviewed on November 8, 2023