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 must foster innovative thinking and support 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 Truman signed the National Mental Health Act, which called for establishing a National Institute of Mental Health.

1946—On August 15, six nationally known psychiatrists and Surgeon General Thomas Parran attended the first meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council. Because the federal government had not yet appropriated funds for the new institute, the Greenwood Foundation financed the meeting.

1947—On July 1, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) Division of Mental Hygiene awarded the first mental health research grant (MH-1), "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 Robert H. Felix, M.D.; it was one of the first four institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) created by statute.

1951—In June, neurobiologist 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).

1952—On December 20, Director Robert Felix, M.D., recruited psychiatrist Robert A. Cohen, M.D., who 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 84-182) called for "an objective, thorough, and nationwide analysis and reevaluation of the human and economic problems of mental illness.” The resulting Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health, comprised of 36 organizations, issued a report called Action for Mental Health.

1956—On August 2, Congress passed the Health Amendments Act of 1956 (Public Law 84-911). Title V of the legislation allowed NIMH to award “special project grants” of almost any kind pertaining to mental health. This expanded the existing mandate of NIMH, allowing for greater involvement in community-based mental health efforts and programs.

1956—On October 16, NIMH created the Psychopharmacology Service Center to coordinate the mass testing of new compounds. The congressionally funded effort, spurred by the discovery of blockbuster drugs chlorpromazine and meprobamate, evolved into the Early Clinical Drug Evaluation Unit, a collaborative program capable of conducting large nationwide clinical trials.

1961Action 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." Transmitted to Congress on December 31, 1960, 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, on October 31, Congress passed the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC) Construction Act (P.L. 88-164), 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 was 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 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 Schizophrenia, Narcotic and Drug Abuse, Suicide Prevention, Crime and Delinquency, Metropolitan Problems, 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 given Bureau status within PHS. However, NIMH's 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 (HEW) Secretary John W. Gardner transferred St. Elizabeths Hospital, the federal government's only civilian psychiatric hospital, to NIMH.

1968—On April 1, NIMH became a component of PHS's Health Services and Mental Health Administration (HSMHA).

1970—On April 6, based on NIMH research, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of lithium as a treatment for mania. This treatment led to sharp drops in inpatient days and suicides among people with bipolar disorder and immense reductions in the economic costs associated with the illness.

1970—On October 15, NIMH researcher Dr. Julius Axelrod, along with two others, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research into the chemistry of nerve transmission. Axelrod established that norepinephrine was inactivated through "reuptake" by the same cells that secreted it. His discovery led to the development of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, the last blockbuster drug used to treat psychosis.

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.

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

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

1974—On May 14, ADAMHA was officially established when President Richard Nixon signed 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 No. 11973. 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.

1980—In October, NIMH released preliminary results of its Epidemiological Catchment Area Survey. Most notably, the survey found that nearly one-in-five Americans suffered from a diagnosable psychiatric disorder within any given six-month period. The five-university, five-city effort, underway since 1977, was the largest to date and employed a diagnostic interview schedule based on research domain criteria, which 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 (Public Law 96-398). The measure created a complex federal-state-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 also participated in developing the “Towards a National Plan for the Chronically Mentally Ill” Surgeon General’s Report, 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. This act repealed the Mental Health Systems Act and consolidated ADAMHA's treatment and rehabilitation service programs 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 providers.

1981—On October 8, Roger Sperry, Ph.D., a longtime NIMH-supported researcher, received the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for discoveries regarding the functional specialization of the cerebral hemispheres, or the "left" and "right" brain.

1981—On November 18, intramural NIMH researcher Louis Sokoloff, M.D., Ph.D., received the Albert Lasker Award in Clinical Medical Research, known as the “American Nobel Prize,” in Clinical Medical Research. Scientists had already documented changing glucose levels in the brain but could not link them to specific regions. Sokoloff tracked the movement of radioactive 2-deoxyglucose (which followed the same pathways that glucose did without breaking down) using positron emission tomography scanning to study the functions of the living brain.

1983—NIMH-funded investigator Dr. Fernando Nottebohm discovered the formation of new neurons in the brains of adult songbirds; this evidence of "neurogenesis" opened an exciting and clinically promising new line of research in brain science. It was 15 years, however, before investigators reported finding evidence for continued neurogenesis in the brains of adult human patients.

1987—On October 1, the Department of Health and Human Services transferred administrative control of St. Elizabeths Hospital from NIMH to the District of Columbia. NIMH retained research facilities on the hospital grounds.

1988—The Depression/Awareness, Recognition, and Treatment program became the first NIMH effort to challenge mental health stigma. Launched nationwide, the program was designed to teach mental health providers, family practitioners, and the public to reject stigma, recognize depression as a medical disorder, and get it treated.

1989—On July 25, in response to reports written by the National Advisory Councils of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute of Mental Health, President George H.W. Bush signed a declaration proclaiming the 1990s to be the "Decade of the Brain.”

1989—On September 25, the NIMH Neuroscience Center and the NIMH Neuropsychiatric Research Hospital, located on the St. Elizabeths Hospital grounds, were dedicated.

1992—On July 10, President Bush signed the ADAMHA Reorganization Act (P.L. 102-321), abolishing ADAMHA. The research components of NIAAA, NIDA, and NIMH rejoined NIH, and the service components of each institute became part of a new PHS agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The return to NIH and the loss of services functions to SAMHSA necessitated a realignment of the NIMH extramural program administrative organization. New offices were created to support research on prevention, special populations, rural mental health, and AIDS.

1992—NIMH established the Silvio O. Conte Centers program to unify research collaboration frameworks for pursuing newly formed hypotheses of brain-behavior relationships in mental illness through innovative research designs and state-of-the-art technologies. The first centers were established at Stanford University, the University of California San Francisco, and Northwestern University.

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.

1994—NIMH began the Intramural Research Program Revitalization. The House Appropriations Committee mandated that the director of NIH review the role, size, and cost of all NIH intramural research programs. As a result, NIMH initiated a significant study of its Intramural Research Program. The planning committee recommended continued investment in the Intramural Research Program, as well as specific administrative changes; many of which were implemented.

1996—NIMH, with the National Advisory Mental Health Council, initiated systematic reviews of several areas of its research portfolio, including the genetics of mental disorders, epidemiology and services for child and adolescent populations; prevention research; clinical treatment; and services research. At the request of the NIMH director, the Council established programmatic groups in each of these areas. The institute continued to implement recommendations issued by these work groups.

1996—On October 3, The National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) was established by President Clinton. NBAC ultimately issued the report, Research Involving Persons with Mental Disorders that may affect Decisionmaking Capacity, in 1999. This report has informed NIMH policies to safeguard and improve human subjects' protections 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—NIMH realigned its extramural organizational structure to capitalize on new technologies and approaches to basic and clinical science, as well as immense changes to health care delivery systems while retaining the institute's focus on mental illness. The new extramural organization resulted in three research divisions: Basic and Clinical Neuroscience Research; Services and Intervention Research; and Mental Disorders, Behavioral Research, and AIDS.

1997—As part of a larger reevaluation of the NIMH extramural program, Director Steven Hyman, M.D., dedicated more resources to promote the career development of early-stage investigators.

1997—At the behest 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 treatment for depression, specifically in adolescents; bipolar disorder;  antipsychotic medications in the treatment of schizophrenia and the management of psychotic symptoms and behavioral problems associated with Alzheimer's disease; and subsequent treatment alternatives to relieve depression.

1999—The NIMH Neuroscience Center/Neuropsychiatric Research Hospital was relocated from St. Elizabeths Hospital grounds in Washington, DC, to the NIH Campus in Bethesda, MD, in response to the recommendations of the 1996 review of the NIMH Intramural Research Program by the Intramural Planning Committee.

1999—Held June 7 in Washington, DC, the first White House Conference on Mental Health brought together national leaders, mental health scientific and clinical personnel, patients, and consumers to discuss needs and opportunities in the understanding and treatment of mental health. NIMH developed materials and helped organize the conference.

1999—NIMH hosted "Dialogue: Texas," the first in a series of mental health forums to solicit input from the public on the direction of future research at the institute and to highlight current research. Held in San Antonio, TX, the forum allowed Texas consumers, researchers, care providers, and policymakers to discuss significant mental health issues with a specific focus on Latino and Hispanic populations.

1999—In July, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher released The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent Suicide. The first Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health followed in December. NIMH, along with other federal agencies, collaborated in the preparation of both of these landmark reports.

NIMH expanded and revitalized its public education and prevention information dissemination programs, including information on suicide, eating disorders, and panic disorder, in addition to the ongoing Institute educational program, Depression/Awareness, Recognition, and Treatment. NIMH also launched an initiative to educate people about anxiety disorders, decrease the stigma and trivialization of these disorders, and encourage people to seek treatment promptly.

2000—In February, NIMH created the Council Work Group on Training for Diversity to ensure adequate opportunities to pursue research careers regardless of “gender, country of origin, and race" and to track the success of related Institute programs. The group issued its Research Training in Psychiatry Residency: Strategies for Reform in 2001.

2000—In March, NIMH launched a five-year communications initiative called the Constituency Outreach and Education Program, enlisting nationwide partnerships with state organizations to disseminate science-based mental health information to the public and health professionals and to increase access to effective treatments.

2000—On March 20, NIMH Director Steven Hyman met with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala to begin developing safe strategies for treating mental disorders in young children. The initiative followed revelations that prescriptions of Ritalin and antidepressants to children had soared during the early 1990s.

2000—NIMH cohosted two mental health forums in Chicago on the needs of youth from racial and ethnic minority groups and related research. The first meeting in April focused on behavioral, emotional, and cognitive disorders; the impact of violence; the criminalization of youth with treatment needs; service system issues; barriers to treatment; and barriers to research. The July 2000 meeting addressed the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and the role of the family and society in preventing the spread of HIV. It also examined factors that may be associated with the increase in violence. Members of the public, parents, teachers, school officials, guidance counselors, and professionals in the health, family assistance, social services, and juvenile justice fields attended the meetings.

2000—On October 9, Eric Kandel, M.D., Ph.D., and Paul Greengard, Ph.D., each of whom received NIMH support for more than three decades, shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sweden's Arvid Carlsson, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Kandel, who worked in the NIMH intramural 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 nerve cells. Further, Kandel and his colleagues showed that these changes occur at the level of synapses. Dr. Greengard was recognized for his 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 creating an Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee to handle the exchange of information between various government agencies and public advocacy groups. By 2001, NIMH had taken the lead of the IACC.

2000—On November 3, Nancy Andreasen, M.D., Ph.D., a psychiatrist and longtime NIMH-funded researcher, received the National Medal of Science for her groundbreaking work in schizophrenia and for joining behavioral science with neuroscience and neuroimaging. This Presidential Award is one of the nation's highest honors in science.

2000—NIMH and other federal agencies collaborated to prepare a Report on the Surgeon General's Conference entitled Children's Mental Health: A National Action Agenda. This report, released by Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., indicated that the nation was facing a public crisis in children and adolescent mental health. The National Action Agenda outlined goals and strategies to improve services for children and adolescents with mental and emotional disorders.

2001—On March 26, NIMH convened more than 150 clinical and basic scientists at a mental health forum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to develop a Research Strategic Plan for Mood Disorders. A public event held in conjunction with the forum focused on the frequent co-occurrence of depression with general medical illnesses.

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 in a resilient fashion, the report indicated that early psychological intervention guided by qualified mental health caregivers could reduce the harmful psychological and emotional effects of exposure to mass violence in survivors. NIMH collaborated with the U.S. Department of Defense, other federal agencies, and the Red Cross to prepare this report.

2003—In April, NIMH launched the ‘Real Men. Real Depression.’ campaign to raise awareness about depression in men and create an understanding of the signs, symptoms, and available treatments. The campaign was designed to inspire other men to seek help after hearing from real men talking about their experiences with depression, treatment, and recovery.

2003—In collaboration with the University of New Mexico, NIMH hosted a regional public outreach meeting, Dialogue Four Corners, in April that focused on the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. More than 350 stakeholders—including the public, health care providers, policymakers, advocates, and researchers—gathered to discuss the impact of mental illness on American Indian and Hispanic populations living in rural communities and to help NIMH shape its future research agenda on issues relevant to the region.

2003—NIMH established the Limited Access Data Repository, the institute's first effort to provide an infrastructure to which extensive NIMH-funded clinical studies could submit their data for sharing. The site served as a platform for researchers to access data sets to conduct secondary analyses until 2017, when the data from those clinical trials was moved to the NIMH Data Archive.

2004—The Treatment of Adolescent Depression Study (TADS), one of NIMH's four large-scale practical clinical trials, published significant first-phase results on the most effective treatment for depression in adolescents. The clinical trial of 439 adolescents with major depression found a combination of medication and psychotherapy to be the most effective treatment over the 12-week study. The study compared cognitive-behavioral therapy with fluoxetine, which was the only antidepressant approved by the FDA for use in children and adolescents at the time.

2005—The first phase of the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness research program (CATIE), the second of NIMH’s four large-scale practical clinical trials, compared the effectiveness and side effects of five new and older medications used to treat people with schizophrenia. Overall, the medications were comparably effective but were associated with high discontinuation rates due to intolerable side effects or failure to control symptoms adequately. Surprisingly, the older, less expensive medication used in the study generally performed as well as the newer medications. The NIMH-funded study included more than 1,400 participants.

2005—NIMH and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) collaborated to help launch the Schizophrenia Research Forum, an online resource— (link is external)—that aims to advance research in schizophrenia and related diseases. NARSAD is one of the largest donor-supported organizations funding research on brain and behavioral disorders.

2006—In June, NIMH launched the inaugural edition of Inside NIMH, an electronic newsletter published three times each year following National Advisory Mental Health Council meetings. The e-newsletter continues to provide the latest news on funding opportunities and policies at NIMH and highlights research breakthroughs, new tools for mental health research, and public education efforts.

2006—At the open session of the September meeting of NIMH's National Advisory Mental Health Council, John March, M.D., M.P.H., principal investigator of NIMH's TADS program, provided the latest findings of the study, which suggested that even after 18 weeks, the combination of medication and psychotherapy continued to provide the fastest, most effective outcome. Psychotherapy alone could be a viable option for adolescents unable to take medication, but it required six extra months to achieve the same improvement as treatments involving medication.

2006—Results from the first phase of NIMH's CATIE study yielded evidence that antipsychotic medications commonly prescribed to treat delusions, aggression, hallucinations, and other similar symptoms in patients with Alzheimer’s disease can benefit some patients. Still, the medications appeared to be no more effective than a placebo when adverse side effects are considered. The study provided the first real-world test of antipsychotic medications prescribed for these patients.

2006—The NIMH-funded Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) research program, the nation's largest clinical trial for depression (and the third of NIMH's four practical clinical trials), reported a series of results over the course of the year. The program included 2,876 participants. Phase one results, which used flexible adjustment of dosages based on quick and easy-to-use clinician ratings of symptoms and patient self-ratings of side effects, helped clinicians to track "real world" patients who became symptom-free and to identify those who were resistant to the initial treatment over the course of 14 weeks. Phase two results showed that one in three patients with depression who previously did not achieve remission using an antidepressant became symptom-free with the help of additional medication, and one in four achieved remission after switching to a different antidepressant. Phases three and four showed that patients with treatment-resistant depression had a modest chance of becoming symptom-free when they tried different treatment strategies after two or three failed treatments.

2006—On September 29, Aaron T. Beck, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, the founder of cognitive therapy and a longtime NIMH-supported researcher, was named the recipient of the prestigious Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research.

2006—On December 19, President George W. Bush signed the Combating Autism Act of 2006. The measure called for increased research on Autism Spectrum Disorder. It also provided for enhanced information sharing by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, which was co-chaired by the NIMH director.

2007—Building on previous research, several studies in the NIMH Intramural Research Program demonstrated that ketamine relieved depression within hours and helped identify a possible mechanism behind this finding. Although scientists thought ketamine might not be used as an antidepressant because of its side effects, the new results moved scientists closer to understanding how to develop faster-acting antidepressant medications. Existing medications to treat depression took weeks to have an effect.

2007—Findings from another NIMH clinical study—The Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD)—revealed that people receiving medication treatment for bipolar disorder were more likely to get well faster and stay well if they also received intensive psychotherapy.

2008—In August, NIMH published its Strategic Plan(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—NIMH and the U.S. Army entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to conduct research to help the Army reduce the rate of suicides. The MOA allowed for the launch of the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service Members (Army STARRS), a $50 million, multiyear study on suicide and suicidal behavior among soldiers across all phases of Army service. At the time, it was the most extensive single study on suicide that NIMH had ever undertaken.

2008—Twelve NIMH staff members received the 2008 Hubert H. Humphrey Award for Service to America for their work addressing returning veterans' mental health needs. To meet pressing scientific and public health needs related to the ongoing wars, these staff members developed a new research initiative seeking grants designed to describe and evaluate national, state, and local programs that address the mental health needs of returning service members and their families.

2009—On February 2, to keep the economy from stalling during the Great Recession, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided billions for scientific research at NIH. NIMH used its share to fund “challenge grants” in areas that would benefit most from a two-year jumpstart; to supplement existing grants; to fund research on the diverse character of autism spectrum disorder; to offer short-term impact “grand opportunities” grants; and to support core center and academic research enhancement awards.

2010—In July, NIMH launched the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative aimed at developing, for research purposes, new ways of classifying mental disorders based on behavioral dimensions and neurobiological measures. RDoC attempts to bring modern research approaches in genetics, neuroscience, and behavioral science to the problems of mental illness, studied independently from the classification systems by which patients are currently grouped.

2010—On November 10, NIMH intramural scientist Mortimer Mishkin, Ph.D., was awarded the National Medal of Science at a White House ceremony. In studies spanning more than 5 decades, Dr. Mishkin and colleagues examined the neural mechanisms underlying perception and memory. Dr. Mishkin's work has 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. 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 White House Champions of Change initiative (link is external)  celebrates individuals and organizations from all walks of life who are making an impact in communities and helping the country rise to the challenges of the 21st century.

2012—On October 10, NIMH-supported researcher Brian K. Kobilka, M.D., of Stanford University, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for findings on a family of cell receptors—G-protein coupled receptors—a central avenue through which hormones and many medications communicate with cells.

2012—On August 31, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order (link is external) directing key federal departments to expand suicide prevention strategies and take steps to meet the current and future demand for mental health and substance abuse treatment services for veterans, service members, and their families. The Executive Order directed the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Education to develop a National Research Action Plan that included strategies to improve early diagnosis and treatment effectiveness for traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Executive Order further directed the DoD and HHS to conduct a comprehensive mental health study emphasizing PTSD, TBI, and related injuries to develop better options for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

2013—In the wake of several mass shootings—including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, MA—President Obama put forward a plan (link is external), combining executive actions and calls for legislative action to reduce gun violence. The plan contained several recommendations focusing on mental health, among them lifting the freeze on gun violence research. It also included measures aimed at increasing access to mental health care, including training additional mental health professionals to serve children and young adults, as well as starting a national conversation about mental health.

2013—On April 2, President Obama announced the launch of the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative—a major new 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.

2013—On September 20, NIMH-supported researcher Thomas C. Südhof, M.D., at Stanford University School of Medicine, and former NIMH-supported researcher Richard H. Scheller, Ph.D., at Genentech, won the Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for the mapping of the molecular mechanisms involved in neurotransmitter release.

2013--On October 2, NIMH-supported researcher Thomas C. Südhof, M.D., received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on how the brain sends and receives chemical messages.

2013—Former NIMH-supported researcher Susan Murphy, Ph.D., at the University of Michigan, was named a MacArthur Fellow for her work on developing a computer program to help clinicians decide treatment pathways for individuals coping with chronic or relapsing disorders such as major depression or schizophrenia.

2013—In August, President Obama announced the National Research Action Plan (NRAP). NRAP is a coordinated effort by the U.S. Departments of Defense (DoD), Veterans Affairs (VA), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education (ED) in response to the previous year’s Executive Order (link is external)  that called for improved access to mental health services for veterans, service members, and military families. NRAP provided a comprehensive approach to accelerating research on traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder and strategies for preventing suicide among veterans and active-duty personnel.

2014—On May 1, Army STARRS released its initial findings related to suicides and deaths in the first of a series of papers. Among the findings: the rise in suicide deaths from 2004 to 2009 occurred not only in currently and previously deployed soldiers, but also among soldiers never deployed; nearly half of soldiers who reported suicide attempts indicated their first attempt was prior to enlistment; and soldiers reported higher rates of certain mental disorders than civilians.

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

2014—NIMH changed its policy toward funding clinical trials. The new policy requires that future trials follow an experimental medicine approach, in which a positive result will require not only that an intervention ameliorated a symptom but that it had a demonstrable effect on a target, such as a neural pathway. 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 of its 2008 predecessor with the aim of balancing the need for long-term investments in basic research with urgent mental health needs. The four Strategic Objectives are:

  • 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—Investigators in NIMH’s Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) project reported that treating people with first episode psychosis using a team-based, coordinated specialty care approach produced better clinical and functional outcomes than typical community care. Investigators also found that treatment is most effective for people who receive care soon after psychotic symptoms begin. Based on RAISE results, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services(link is external) (CMS) posted an informational bulletin (link is external) to state Medicaid directors about covering treatment for first episode psychosis. The bulletin represented a joint effort by several agencies: NIMH, the CMS Center for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(link is external). A key feature of this bulletin is CMS’ support for coordinated specialty care, the evidence-based treatment approach tested in the RAISE.

2015—On February 6, NIMH announced the creation of the Early Psychosis Intervention Network (EPINET) intended to link treatment centers into a network of evidence-based coordinated specialty care programs aimed at treating early-stage psychosis. The initiative built on the insights developed during the NIMH RAISE Project.

2017—NIMH launched a major effort to discover and catalog the brain’s “parts list.” The NIH’s Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative Cell Census Network consisted of an association of integrated centers, collaborating laboratories, and data resources. Within four years, the Cell Census Network, conducting studies of mice, monkeys, and humans, compiled a cell type atlas and completed a wiring diagram of neurons in the primary mammalian motor cortex.

2017—On July 11, NIMH proposed the creation of the National Institute of Mental Health Data Archive (NDA) to serve as a resource for investigators seeking to submit or use human subject information. The NDA, built upon the preexisting National Database for Autism Research, brought together a number of other existing 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 (ABCD) study to the scientific community. This comprehensive data set—disaggregated by sex, racial/ethnic group, and socioeconomic status—allows researchers to address numerous questions related to adolescent brain development to help inform future prevention and treatment efforts, public health strategies, and policy decisions.

2019—On March 5, the FDA approved esketamine as a treatment for depression. In the 1990s, NIMH-funded researchers Dennis S. Charney, M.D., and John Krystal, M.D., found that ketamine treated depression within hours rather than the usual days or weeks. In the 2000s, Dr. Charney, then at NIMH, and colleagues determined that ketamine worked by blocking the NMDA receptor in brain cells and stimulating the activity of the AMPA receptor. NIMH scientist Husseini K. Manji, M.D., produced a safer, more effective drug by isolating a stereoisomer of the molecule, esketamine.

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

2019—NIMH funded the Advanced Laboratories for Accelerating the Reach and Impact of Treatments for Youth and Adults with Mental Illness (ALACRITY) program, which supports the advancement of clinical practice and research through accelerating the translation of research findings to clinics and communities. Research teams from the eight centers that comprise the ALACRITY program focus on innovation to help underserved populations urgently in need of mental health care.

2020—NIMH published a new NIMH Strategic Plan for Research. The plan 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. The four Strategic Plan Goals form a broad roadmap for the institute's research priorities, ranging from fundamental science to public health impact:

  • Goal 1: Define the Brain Mechanisms Underlying Complex Behaviors
  • Goal 2: Examine Mental Illness Trajectories Across the Life Span
  • Goal 3: Strive for Prevention and Cures
  • Goal 4: 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®), AMP Schizophrenia (SCZ) brings together NIH, FDA, and multiple nonprofit and private organizations and furthers NIMH’s commitment to research improving the lives of people with early psychosis and schizophrenia.

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
Herbert Pardes 1977 1984
Shervert H. Frazier 1984 1986
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 April 11, 2023