NICHD Neuroscience Research Information

Neuroscience touches many aspects of research supported and conducted by NICHD. Read more about the institute’s research aims, funding opportunities, ongoing research, and findings.

A large portion of NICHD’s neuroscience portfolio focuses on development and rehabilitation, but other areas of neuroscience are also included.

Among the institute’s areas of focus are:

  • Typical and atypical nervous system development in model organisms and in humans
  • Genetic disorders
  • Congenital anomalies and diseases
  • Intellectual and developmental disabilities, including learning disabilities
  • Neuropharmacological and psychopharmacological treatments for children and for women during pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Neurologic and psychiatric complications of HIV/AIDS in women and children
  • Maternal neurologic and psychiatric health and their effects on pregnancy and infant outcomes
  • Normal and abnormal learning, including reading, literacy, and math cognition
  • Neural imaging
  • Neuroendocrine control of reproduction and fertility
  • Musculoskeletal and nervous system injuries and disorders, and ways to improve function or reduce impairment
  • Pain management
  • Reproductive health

Through its intramural and extramural organizational units, NICHD supports and conducts a broad range of research on neuroscience. In addition, NICHD, together with other NIH institutes and centers, participates in important trans-NIH initiatives in the field of neuroscience. Because neuroscience is so integral to NICHD’s mission, there is no way to fully describe the institute’s activities in a few webpages. Instead, we offer links to more information about some of our neuroscience research.

Institute Activities and Advances

Extramural Neuroscience Research

NICHD supports research in the neurosciences at institutions across the United States and around the world through two main components:

  • The Division of Extramural Research (DER) develops, implements, and coordinates neuroscience and other research activities within the NICHD mission. DER’s research portfolio is broad, but many of its 12 scientific branches address aspects of neuroscience in fertility/infertility, gynecologic and pelvic pain, pregnancy and infant health, developmental biology, birth defects, learning and learning disabilities, behavior and behavioral interventions, intellectual and developmental disabilities, infection-related outcomes, neuropharmacology, pediatric trauma, and other areas. For more information about DER’s neuroscience research, visit
  • The National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR) supports research to foster the development of scientific knowledge to enhance the health, productivity, independence, and quality of life of people with physical disabilities. Much of NCMRR’s research portfolio is neuroscience related in some way and includes traumatic brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injury, musculoskeletal disorders, functional plasticity, and motor and cognitive function. NCMRR also serves as the coordinating body for rehabilitation research across NIH and seeks collaborative opportunities with other NIH institutes. For more information, read the NCMRR description at

Visit the Funding for Neuroscience Research page to view current funding opportunities.

Intramural Neuroscience Research

NICHD also conducts research in the neurosciences through its in-house research program.

  • The Division of Intramural Research (DIR) conducts laboratory and clinical research programs to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems through basic, clinical, and population-based research. The division investigates the physics, chemistry, and biology of cells; the processes that govern and regulate cellular function; and the effects when these processes fail. For more information about DIR’s neuroscience research, visit
  • The Division of Population Health Research (DiPHR) designs and conducts original and collaborative research in reproductive, perinatal, and pediatric health. Neuroscience-related research includes studies of congenital anomalies, brain development, intergenerational health, contraception development, and social and behavioral sciences. For more information, read the division’s annual reports.

Neuroscience Research Findings

You can access recent NICHD news and features related to neuroscience through this site’s Newsroom.

Other Activities and Advances

Many of the institute’s projects and supported networks involve different aspects of neuroscience. The links below provide additional information.

Trans-NIH Initiatives

NICHD is a key partner in several neuroscience projects involving the NIH Office of the Director, as well as other NIH institutes and centers:

  • NICHD is an active member of the NIH BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies®) Initiative, which aims to revolutionize studies of the human brain. The goal is to produce new tools to ultimately reveal how individual brain cells and neural circuits interact in time and space.
  • The institute is also involved with the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research. The Blueprint’s collaborative framework pools resources and expertise, identifies crosscutting areas of research, and confronts challenges too large for any single institute or center. Additionally, the Blueprint supports the development of new resources and tools for neuroscientists.
    • The NIH Human Connectome Project is an effort to map the neural pathways that underlie human brain function. This effort, part of the larger Blueprint activities, seeks to acquire and share data about structural and functional connections in the human brain. By advancing imaging and analysis capabilities, the project will accelerate progress in human connectomics.
  • NICHD has a leading role in the INCLUDE (INvestigation of Co-occurring conditions across the Lifespan to Understand Down syndromE) project, a trans-NIH research initiative on critical health and quality-of-life needs for individuals with Down syndrome that launched in June 2018. INCLUDE will investigate conditions that affect individuals with Down syndrome and the general population, such as Alzheimer’s disease/dementia, autism, cataracts, celiac disease, congenital heart disease, and diabetes.
  • Within the NIH HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, NICHD efforts are focused on understanding how opioids affect infants, children, and pregnant and reproductive-age women. The institute is supporting multiple research activities related to opioids, in keeping with NIH’s overall efforts to find scientific solutions to the opioid epidemic.

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