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NIMH to Fund Studies of Molecular and Cellular Basis of Complex Brain Disorders

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institute of Mental Health plans to fund new research that will explore molecular and cellular alterations that are associated with complex brain disorders, and how they impact neuronal function.

NIMH said yesterday in a funding announcement it wants to spur more knowledge about how these alterations are involved in "some of the biggest challenges facing neuroscience" — disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar and anxiety disorders, and autism.

Such impairments in complex brain functions "extract a very high toll in care and lost productivity" in the US, NIMH said, but the generation of new knowledge about their causes and the development of effective treatments have been slowed because these disorders often are not defined by biomarkers of pathology or by specific gene variants. But recent research into disease-associated genes and pathways and molecular and cellular research techniques have neuroscientists poised to discover the substrates involved in these disorders, NIMH said.

To support these studies, the institute will fund R01 research project grants with an unspecified funding limit, and R21 exploratory and developmental grants with up to $275,000 over two years.

These studies may explore the molecular, cellular, and circuit-level functions of promising or unexplored genetic variants associated with brain disorders; investigate the epigenetic or environmental factors that influence processes associated with disease; pursue innovative in vitro approaches to identify new molecules or cellular entities and processes involved in neuronal signaling; optimize and implement cell-based experimental systems, such as induced pluripotent stem cells to identify disease-associated alterations; identify the functions of molecules that are linked to diseases but for which the basic neurobiology has not been established; or develop and optimize new tools for analyzing expression levels and neurobiological functions of brain signaling molecules that are relevant to complex brain disorders.

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