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Mental Health Research Grants


Total Assistance, FY 2008 to Present
CFDA Number

Objectives: 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. In fiscal year (FY) 2008, NIMH released its first Strategic Plan, which guided the Institute’s work toward this mission. In March 2015, NIMH released its new Strategic Plan for Research. Moving forward, the NIMH will be guided by both this new Plan and by the Strategic Research Priorities based on the Plan. The Strategic Plan for Research comprises four high-level Strategic Objectives: (1) Define the mechanisms of complex behaviors; (2) Chart mental illness trajectories to determine when, where, and how to intervene; (3) Strive for prevention and cure; and (4) Strengthen the public health impact of NIMH-supported research. The four Objectives of the Plan describe the continuum of mental health research, ranging from understanding basic pathophysiology, to defining the trajectories of mental illnesses, to developing innovative treatment and prevention strategies, to ensuring public health impact. The Institute’s overall funding strategy is to support a broad spectrum of investigator-initiated research in fundamental science, with increasing use of Institute-solicited initiatives for applied research where public health impact is a short-term measure of success. Cross-cutting themes relevant to all research supported by NIMH include the Research Domain Criteria Initiative; the Institute’s new experimental medicine approach, which focuses on studies with defined targets and milestones; the role of the environment in the pathogenesis of mental illnesses; the new culture of open science with broad and rapid data sharing; preemptive medicine; research designed to reduce and eliminate mental health disparities both within and outside the United States – specifically, research on sex, gender, age, racial, and ethnic differences related to mental illnesses; partnerships with external stakeholders; and, supporting and training future generations of mental health researchers. Specific program objectives include: To determine the molecular, cellular, and systems components underlying brain connectivity and dynamic patterns of brain activity using model systems, and human studies; to identify the mechanisms responsible for establishing and maintaining circuits; to identify and validate novel assays to quantify changes in the activity of molecules, cells, and circuits; and, to elucidate the basic biology linking changes in molecular-, cellular-, and circuit-based targets to alterations in complex behaviors. To define genomic variations associated with mental illnesses and determine the biological consequences of these variations; to define the molecular mechanisms that determine how experience has enduring effects on gene expression, brain function, and behavior; to delineate environmental and biological factors altering genomic risk for mental illnesses; and, to develop analytical tools for multi-scale data integration. To identify cells and brain networks that contribute to various aspects of mental function and dysfunction, such as cognition, emotion, and social behavior; to determine how changes in the physiological properties of molecules, cells, and circuits contribute to mental illnesses; to develop biomarkers of impaired neural function in humans at the level of molecules, cells, and circuits; and, to develop innovative technologies, as well as new pharmacological and genetic tools, to interrogate and modulate the signaling pathways and circuits altered by mental illnesses. To characterize developmental processes across biological and behavioral domains of analysis that give rise to mental illnesses throughout the lifespan; to identify sensitive periods for typical and atypical mental health trajectories; and, to determine modifiers of maturational and illness trajectories, emphasizing periods of sens