Through its intramural and extramural organizational units, the NICHD supports and conducts a broad range of research on Neuroscience. Short descriptions of this research are included below:
Extramural Neuroscience Research
The NICHD supports research in the neurosciences through its extramural programs. Brief descriptions of the NICHD components that support this research, as well as links to the websites for these components are listed below. You can also visit the Neuroscience Research Funding page to see what types of research the NICHD is supporting related to the neurosciences.
- The Child Development and Behavior Branch (CDBB) supports research relevant to the psychological, psychobiological, and educational development of children from birth through adolescence. Within this portfolio, the CDBB supports neuroscience research on the following topics: developmental behavioral and cognitive neuroscience in human and animal models; neuroanatomical and neuroendocrine bases of behavior; developmental and behavioral neurotoxicology; neural bases and development of language, math, reasoning, cognition, learning, memory, sensory, motor, and perceptual development; screening, diagnosis, and treatment of disabilities that affect learning, including reading and writing disability, math disability, and attention and language disorders. The CDBB encourages multidisciplinary approaches, including behavioral and molecular genetics, behavioral and cognitive interventions, structural and functional neuroimaging, and electrophysiology.
- The Developmental Biology and Structural Variation Branch (DBSVB) supports research that focuses primarily on the basic mechanisms regulating early embryonic development. Within this portfolio, the DBSVB supports neuroscience research on the following topics: normal and abnormal development of the central and peripheral nervous systems; neurogenesis, cell migration, patterning, and differentiation; axonal guidance and synapse formation; the role of growth factors and other molecules in neural development; neural tube formation/defects; neurodevelopmental teratogens; and mechanisms underlying neural development. The DBSVB encourages multidisciplinary approaches, including animal models, genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, biophysics, and systems biology.
- The Pediatric Growth and Nutrition Branch (PGNB) supports research on the endocrinological and nutritional influences on growth, body composition, puberty, skeletal accretion, and brain development. Within this portfolio, the PGNB supports neuroscience research on the following topics: nutritional effects on brain development; neurotropic growth factors in neuronal function, connectivity, and overall brain development; neuroendocrinology; sexual dimorphism of the nervous system; and innervation of endocrine organs.
- The Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Branch (IDDB) supports research on topics related to the biomedical, behavioral, and biobehavioral aspects of intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs). Within this portfolio, the IDDB supports neuroscience research on the following topics: etiology and pathophysiology of abnormal nervous system development and function; screening, diagnosis, and management of IDDs; research on specific disorders, including Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and Rett syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, inborn errors of metabolism, muscular dystrophies, self-injurious behaviors, chromosomal abnormalities, genetic/genomic syndromes, and epigenetic disorders; technologies related to disorders identifiable by newborn screening, their natural histories, and treatments; and multidisciplinary, integrative, and translational studies of gene-brain-behavior relationships using such approaches as genetics, epigenetics, genomics, proteomics, molecular and cellular biology, animal models, gene and cell therapies, clinical trials, and behavioral interventions.
- The Obstetric and Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics Branch (OPPTB) supports basic, translational, and clinical research aimed at improving the safety and effectiveness of current drugs and enhancing the development of new drugs for pediatric and obstetric patients. Within this portfolio, the OPPTB supports neuroscience research on the following topics: clinical trials; pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic studies of drugs for neuropharmacological and psychopharmacological treatment of pediatric patients at different developmental stages and of women during pregnancy; drug effects on neurocognitive outcomes; drug metabolism, disposition, neurotoxicity, and adverse drug effects; molecular and cellular mechanisms; neurotransmitters and their receptors; ion channels; intrauterine neurotoxicity; neuroprotection agents; biomarkers, pharmacogenomics, and proteomics; pharmacological magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography, and single-photon emission computed tomography; human and animal models; and in vitro and in silico models. Some of the OPPTB’s activities are also listed on the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act (BPCA) website at http://bpca.nichd.nih.gov/.
- The Maternal and Pediatric Infectious Disease Branch (MPIDB) supports and conducts domestic and international research on multiple facets of HIV/AIDS and its complications in unique populations. Within its portfolio, the MPIDB supports neuroscience research on the following topics: domestic and international basic, translational, and clinical research into the epidemiology, natural history, pathogenesis, transmission, treatment, and prevention of HIV infection, including neurologic and psychiatric complications in infants, children, adolescents, pregnant women, mothers, women of childbearing age, and the family unit as a whole; neurobiologic and neurodevelopmental effects of HIV infection and associated co-infections in infants, children, adolescents, and pregnant and nonpregnant women; multidisciplinary studies of the interaction between infectious agents, genetics, brain, and behavior, including basic science and imaging studies; behavioral interventions to prevent HIV acquisition; effects of drugs for treating HIV and its associated comorbidities on neurocognitive outcomes of HIV and related infections, including the pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics interface between central nervous system drug penetration and effects of the drugs and neurologic outcomes and neurotoxicity of drugs used for treatment; and neuroscience research on the effects of in utero exposure of the fetus to drugs used to treat HIV and infectious and noninfectious comorbidities in pregnant HIV-infected women.
- The Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch (PPB) supports basic and clinical research directed toward improving the outcome of pregnancy, reducing infant mortality, and minimizing maternal and infant morbidities. Within this portfolio, the PPB supports neuroscience research on the following topics: management of maternal neurologic and mental health disorders and their effects on pregnancy and infant outcomes; placenta, uterine blood flow, and antenatal diagnosis and their effects on fetal neurologic well-being; neurochemical control of labor and the fetal neuroendocrine system; pathogenesis and prevention of complications from preterm birth, intrauterine growth restriction, stillbirth, asphyxia of the term newborn, neuroprotection from asphyxia, and transplacental effects of toxicants; tools to assess fetal, neonatal, and infant neurologic and behavioral maturity; optimizing neonatal resuscitation to prevent neurological damage disorders of the newborn that can result in neurologic sequelae, including adaptation to extrauterine life, hypoglycemia, neonatal seizures, hyperbilirubinemia, asphyxia, respiratory disorders, metabolic disorders, anemia, and infection; optimal neonatal nutrition; and development of safe and effective devices and instruments to measure brain activity, such as MRI and functional MRI; electroencephalography, which records electrical activity of the brain; magnetoencephalography, which maps brain activity using magnetic fields; and near-infrared spectroscopy, which uses the near-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum to noninvasively measure brain function. These techniques are used in neonatal intensive care to help assess the anatomical and functional aspects of the developing brain. Other studies include assessment of the effect of intensive care environment and caregiving practices on growth, development, and maturation of the brain and special sensory apparatus, development and regulation of cardiovascular, thermal, and cardiorespiratory control and sleep states in infancy; and evaluation of neurologic deficits in sudden infant death syndrome.
- The Fertility and Infertility (FI) Branch supports research aimed at alleviating human infertility and reproductive disorders, identifying new contraceptive leads, and expanding fundamental knowledge about the processes that underlie the success or failure of human reproduction. Within this portfolio, the FI Branch supports neuroscience research on the following topics: neuroendocrine control of reproduction, including the cellular and molecular mechanisms within the brain that govern ovulation and gametogenesis; genetics of reproductive neuroendocrine diseases and disorders; neural basis of reproductive behavior, sexual function, and sex differentiation; neuro-immuno-endocrine axis in fertility regulation; effects of photoperiod, circadian rhythms, and appetite control on reproduction; and basic and clinical approaches, including the development of animal models through genetic engineering, cell/tissue culture, imaging techniques, and tissue transplantation.
- The National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR), through basic and clinical research, fosters the development of scientific knowledge to enhance the health, productivity, independence, and quality of life of people with physical disabilities. The NCMRR supports neuroscience research on the following topics: pathophysiology and management of chronically injured nervous and musculoskeletal systems, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and orthopedic conditions; repair and recovery of motor and cognitive function; functional plasticity, adaptation, and windows of opportunity for rehabilitative interventions; rehabilitative strategies involving pharmaceutical and neuroengineering approaches, exercise, motor training, and behavioral modifications; pediatric critical care and rehabilitation; secondary conditions associated with chronic disabilities; improved diagnosis, assessment, and outcome measures; and development of orthotics, prosthetics, and other assistive technologies and devices.
Intramural Neuroscience Research
The NICHD also conducts research in the neurosciences through its intramural research program. .
The Division of Intramural Research (DIR) conducts neuroscience research that focuses on the biological, medical, and behavioral aspects of normal and abnormal development and function. For more information about DIR efforts in neuroscience research, please visit the DIR website.
The Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research (DESPR) designs and conducts original and collaborative research in reproductive, perinatal, and pediatric health; determinants of health behavior; and statistical theory and methodology relevant to these problems. For more information about DESPR efforts in neuroscience research, please visit the DESPR website.