202301 New Approaches for Measuring Brain Changes Across Longer Timespans

​Program seeks Council approval for an initiative titled, “New approaches for measuring brain changes across longer timespans.”  The goal is to develop new methods that allow brain measurements across longer stretches of the lifespan, including tracking rapid changes during development and aging.  Responsive grant applications will develop novel approaches or improve existing ones, and apply them to a developmental hypothesis.

This area of research requires additional investment because existing brain measures are usually time-limited snapshots.  Even if they are repeated longitudinally, existing methods often cannot accurately track the changes, especially during stages of rapid neurodevelopment, aging, or disease-related aberrations.  Furthermore, improvements are needed in the spatial and temporal sensitivity of neuroimaging, in the adaptability of brain measures to populations with special challenges, and in the integration of whole-brain assessments with trajectories of change in molecular, genomic, and cellular-level measures. 

This initiative encourages collaborations to improve existing or develop new methods, tools, or computational modeling approaches to allow more precise measures over longer timespans of development or aging, in human participants and/or animals.

The initiative aligns with NICHD’s Scientific Theme 1: “Understanding the Molecular, Cellular, and Structural Basis of Development,” since it may provide a more accurate picture of change trajectories prenatally and from early life to adulthood.  This initiative also aligns with the cross-cutting theme of “Disease Prevention;” having brain measures that can more accurately track changes over longer timespans can lay the foundation for predicting future disease and suggest early interventions to prevent poor trajectories. 

This initiative also aligns with NICHD’s cross-cutting interest in global health, since it arose out of the “Brain Across the Lifespan: Tools and Methodologies for Measuring the Changing Brain” workshop, which was organized as a collaboration between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, NICHD, and other NIH Institutes.  A key interest of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is to promote global health with devices that can be quickly and inexpensively deployed across the globe to assess healthy brain development in vulnerable populations.

Finally, the initiative aligns with the priorities of NICHD’s Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Branch (IDDB) in that it would facilitate tracking neurodevelopmental changes in persons with genetic diseases to understand when and how neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, gene expression, cell fate, migration, and other aspects differ between persons with genomic changes and typically developing comparison groups.

Program Contact

Bettina Buhring
Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Branch (IDDB)

Sonia Lee
Maternal & Pediatric Infectious Disease Branch (MPIDB)


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