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NIH Neuroscience Blueprint to Shape Intra-Agency Research Cooperation

For release: Sunday, October 24, 2004

National Institutes of Health Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., today announced a new intra-agency partnership to accelerate neuroscience research. Dubbed the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, the agreement reinforces ongoing NIH efforts to increase collaborative research and information-sharing among 14 NIH Institutes and Centers that conduct or support research on the brain and nervous system. Information about the Neuroscience Blueprint can be found online at .

"The extraordinary scientific convergence in the fields of inquiry of these 14 Institutes and Centers and the rising public health impact of disorders of the nervous system make neuroscience one of the most important and dynamic scientific frontiers for biomedical and behavioral research in this century," said Dr. Zerhouni. "Greater synergy and cross fertilization across research disciplines will be needed for progress in our understanding of this complex system and new discoveries of benefit to our patients."

The NIH neuroscience Institutes and Centers have increasingly joined forces over the past few years through initiatives and working groups on specific disorders. More than 60 cooperative programs have focused on resources and scientific issues, including predoctoral training, gene expression, pain, stem cells, neurodegeneration, and integrating intramural neuroscience research. The Blueprint will build on this foundation, making collaboration a day-to-day part of how the NIH does business in neuroscience.

While each NIH Institute or Center will independently carry out the basic and disease-specific research unique to its mission, the Blueprint targets those neuroscience challenges that are best met collectively, using the full spectrum of NIH expertise. The program will initially focus on tools, resources, and training that can build on existing research programs.

The Blueprint effort began by identifying cross-cutting neuroscience research that bears on the missions of all of the Institutes and Centers. Three unifying scientific themes emerged as critical for accelerating progress:

  • Development of the nervous system throughout the life span;
  • Neurodegeneration from disease and aging; and
  • Plasticity of the nervous system (the ability of the nervous system to change in response to the environment, experience, injury and disease).
A major emphasis will be integration of neuroscience across all levels of analysis from molecules, through cells, to the functional systems responsible for perception, thinking, emotion, and behavior. The Blueprint will accelerate the translation of basic neuroscience discoveries into better ways to treat and prevent nervous system diseases.

The Blueprint will increase cooperation wherever interests intersect and help scientists share best practices among the various NIH neuroscience components. NIH is committed to planning and coordinating Blueprint initiatives at the early concept stage. Resources established by one Institute or Center may be opened to neuroscientists supported by others. New working groups will focus on diseases and cross-cutting scientific issues for which such groups do not already exist. The Blueprint will also spur the development of new analytical methods and conceptual models to study disease and allow for increased coordination among public education and outreach campaigns involving the brain and nervous system.

The 14 NIH Institutes and Centers that have agreed to participate in the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience are:

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research. NIH is comprised of 27 institutes and centers and investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

Reporters: for more information, contact Marian Emr or Paul Girolami, 301-496-5751.

Last Modified August 7, 2009