Launch of the NINDS Research Program Award (R35) Reply

NINDS is about to initiate a novel funding mechanism, called the R35, in which outstanding scientists will be supported for at least 50% effort by a single, renewable grant for as long as eight years. To ensure the investment is on track, an assessment of progress will be made during the fifth year of the grant. More…

Fostering Diversity and Inclusion at all Career Levels Reply

Posted by Michelle Jones-London, Director of Diversity Training and Workforce Development and
Walter J. Koroshetz, M.D., Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

The NINDS is committed to the development and support of a neuroscience research workforce that engages the ideas, creativity, and innovation from all diverse backgrounds and segments of society. As a federal agency, this vision aligns with policies of open access and, perhaps equally important, makes sense as business case for our scientific enterprise, as well as the NIH research mission. We must leverage the entire U.S. intellectual capital as the American population becomes increasingly diverse. A diverse workforce results in higher-quality scientific research through greater innovation, creativity, and discovery (Nelson and Quick, 2012; Page, 2007).

NINDS seeks to promote diversity in all of its training and research programs, and to increase the participation of underrepresented groups. We accomplish this by recruiting and preparing underrepresented trainees; developing meaningful mentorship and connecting diverse individuals to supportive networks; and providing resources for retention and eliminating barriers for career transition. Specific funding opportunities exist for individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities (defined as those with a physical or mental impairment), and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds (applicable high school and undergraduate candidates). The diversity programs at NINDS include individual NRSA fellowships (F31), career development awards (K01, K22), and institutional program grants (R25) for neuroscientists across all career stages. NINDS encourages all eligible scientists to explore and apply for these opportunities, some of which are highlighted below.


Girl Scouts Explore Neuroscience During National Week at the Labs

We’ve known for decades now about the “leaky” STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) pipeline. Too few blacks and Hispanics, and too few women of all colors, stick with STEM courses as they progress through school and too few end up pursuing careers in the sciences. While a considerable body of research suggests that the STEM pipeline develops major holes by high school, a recent study indicates that disparities in STEM education may actually be traced back to before kindergartenexternal link.

In an effort to reverse these worrying trends, the White House recently launched the inaugural National Week at the Labs (February 29 to March 4) in coordination with the White House Council on Women and Girls (CWG) and the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Task Force. Kicking off the week was an event at the White House meant to bring together scientists, engineers, and lab workers to inspire students with engaging experiments and STEM mentoring sessions.

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Representatives from NINDS, including Dr. Edjah Nduom, Neurosurgery Branch Staff Clinician, and Dr. Michelle Jones-London, Director of Diversity Training and Workforce Development, attended the event and had the pleasure of guiding eager kids through hands on demonstrations about how the brain works.

In addition to the event at the White House, throughout the week more than 50 federally funded labs and research institutes in more than 20 states opened their facilities to thousands of local students. Seeing this as a perfect opportunity to introduce NINDS’s research to a diverse set of students, we invited members of Girl Scout Troops from the DC and Maryland area to visit the John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center.


Rare Disease Drug Discovery and Development Under One Roof Reply

From identifying the genetic causes of rare autonomic nervous system disorder called familial dysautonomia (FD) to developing a screening test to discovering a potential treatment, Susan Slaugenhaupt, a neurologist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, has utilized NINDS funding for every step of her 23-year-long effort to combat the devastating disease. Now, with help from the NIH Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Network, Dr. Slaugenhaupt is developing a new therapeutic to treat FD with plans to advance into clinical trials.


NINDS: A look back at 2015 1

2015 was a remarkable year for neuroscience. The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences went to three neuroscientists for their pioneering work in optogenetics and Alzheimer’s disease. The BRAIN Initiative® teams are developing breakthrough tools to probe neural circuit activity. NIH issued 67 new BRAIN Initiative® awards to 131 investigators working at 125 institutions, bringing the year’s investment in the ambitious project to $85 million. And Alzheimer’s disease research received a massive boost external link from Congress. The National Institute of Aging (NIA) will receive $350 million to learn more about the devastating neurodegenerative disease and discover new treatments, with NINDS directing some of those funds for projects on Alzheimer’s disease-related dementias.

As we look back over the year, there were many outstanding scientific advances by NINDS-funded scientists working on the NIH campus or in universities and research institutions across the country and the world. These advances represent progress toward the Institute’s goal of understanding the normal function of the brain and the biology underlying disorders of the nervous system. The ultimate goal of bringing effective new treatments to patients who suffer from neurological disorders remains a difficult one, but each year brings us closer to real breakthroughs. What follows are just a few examples of the many remarkable basic, clinical, and translational research supported by NINDS.

We encourage you to learn more about the amazing discoveries made by NINDS scientists in 2015 by visiting our news pages, reviewing messages and blog posts from the NINDS Director and other NINDS staff, and exploring the details of our myriad research programs.

Click an image below to access a slide show of NINDS-funded research discoveries in 2015.

State of current NINDS-funded pain research 3

Posted by Michael Oshinsky
Program Director, Pain and Migraine, NINDS

A number of NIH institutes fund pain research and coordinate their activities in the NIH Pain Consortium.  NINDS funds a broad portfolio of research studying acute and chronic pain, ranging from basic research of the cellular, molecular, genetic, and behavioral basis of chronic pain to clinical studies of potential pharmacological treatments. Below is a summary of some currently funded projects supported by NINDS, which are poised to make significant discoveries in our understanding of pain and its treatment. More…

The NINDS Research Program Award (RPA) – piloting a new approach to funding neuroscience research 5

Posted by Robert Finkelstein
Director, Division of Extramural Research, NINDS

For many years, the R01 (Research Project Grant) has been the go-to mechanism through which NIH supports investigator-initiated research. As most of you know, an R01 award supports an individual project described prospectively by an investigator in a grant application. During the last 60+ years, many biomedical breakthroughs originated in laboratories that were stably funded through one or more long-running R01 grants.

Unfortunately, life has become more challenging for principal investigators (PIs) and the labs that they oversee. The doubling of the NIH budget (1998-2003) led to a sharp increase in the number of investigators applying for funding. In addition, the NIH budget has failed to keep pace with inflation, leading to dramatic declines in the funding “paylines” of most NIH Institutes. For example, at NINDS our payline dropped from 26% during the doubling to 12% in 2006, and is currently set at 14%. Even worse, these declining funding rates have come at a time of unprecedented opportunities in basic and applied neuroscience. More…

Overview of the January 2015 National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council Reply

Further discussion of a concept for an innovative new funding mechanism (had been discussed at the previous Council), as well as concept approval for clinical studies related to emergency medicine and adolescent brain development, headlined the January 2015 National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council (NANDSC), my first as acting Institute Director.

Following my opening remarks about important NINDS-related news, which I address at the end of this message, Director of the NINDS Division of Extramural Research Bob Finkelstein introduced a proposal for a new funding mechanism (the R35) that would give principal investigators (PIs) broad, sustained, and flexible support for their research programs. More…

How stroke prevention promotes healthy brain aging 1

Throughout life, a person’s mental faculties are in a constant state of change. For example, mathematicians reach their maximum mental productivity in their 3rd decade. Most people begin to experience very gradual decline in mental abilities as a normal part of healthy aging. Normal age-related changes in cognition are in part due to the limited capacity of the brain’s nerve cells to regenerate. Indeed our brains become smaller with age. However, after our seventh or eighth decade, an accelerated loss of mental function may signify onset of dementia or less severe abnormal cognitive decline. More…

NIH Blueprint: 10-year, Trans-NIH Effort to Advance Neuroscience Requests New Ideas from Scientific Community 3

Multi-colored picture of the human brain from different angles depicting brain activityOver the past century, researchers have made incredible progress in understanding the anatomy, cell biology, physiology, and chemistry of the brain. Yet fundamental mysteries remain, such as how neural activity translates into behavior and why brain function declines with age. Diseases and disorders of the brain and nervous system represent some of the greatest challenges to modern medicine, and it is imperative that we develop effective ways of preventing and treating these devastating conditions. Recent advances in neuroimaging, genomics, computational neuroscience, engineering, and other disciplines have ushered in a new great era in neuroscience, during which we can expect to make transformative discoveries regarding brain function in health, aging and disease.

The NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research (Blueprint) aims to accelerate these discoveries. Blueprint, a collaboration among 15 participating NIH Institutes, Centers and Offices (ICs) that supports research on the nervous system, seeks to enhance cooperative activities and to accelerate the pace of discovery and understanding in neuroscience research. Blueprint was initiated in 2004 by the NIH Director (Dr. Elias Zerhouni), based on the premise that, by pooling resources and expertise, Blueprint ICs can take advantage of economies of scale, confront challenges too large for any single IC, and develop research tools and infrastructure that will serve the entire neuroscience community. More…