Over the past decade, neuroscience research has led to extraordinary advances in our understanding of how the brain works. We now have in hand three-dimensional molecular structures for the ion channels that underlie neuronal function, recipes that turn pluripotent stem cells into specific classes of neurons, the ability to probe how particular neurons contribute to circuit function, and the opportunity to see the living brain in action with functional imaging. This is just a sampling of what we have learned and what tools are now available to us.
Investigators have discovered genes that contribute to diseases for which genetic causes were not previously known. They have also created cell and animal models to mimic human disease and defined molecular pathways responsible for damage and dysfunction. These advances are leading to the development of diagnostic strategies that rely on genetic testing, biomarkers and brain imaging; as well as to new approaches for treating neurological disorders, including but not limited to new therapeutic agents, gene therapy, and brain stimulation.
To build on these advances and guide their application to improved health, NINDS has recently completed a new strategic planning effort that combined practical consideration of ways to pursue our mission more effectively with a look ahead at our "blue sky" goals for the future. A critical challenge for NINDS over the next decade will be determining how best to translate discoveries about the brain into better treatment and prevention of neurological disorders while also continuing to push the frontiers of basic neuroscience research yet further. With many promising opportunities, finding the correct balance will be essential to our success in meeting our mission. Based on input from scientists and clinicians with diverse expertise as well as from the public, the new NINDS strategic plan provides guidance for the Institute over the next five to ten years. Please view the plan at http://www.ninds.nih.gov/about_ninds/plans/NINDS_strategic_plan.htm
-Story Landis, Ph.D.
Last updated January 5, 2011