Neuroscience Research Components: Extramural

NICHD supports research in the neurosciences and neuroethics through its extramural programs. Brief descriptions of the NICHD components that support this research, as well as links to their websites are included here.

  • The Child Development and Behavior Branch (CDBB) supports research relevant to the neurocognitive, psychological, behavioral, physical, and socio-emotional development and health of infants, children, and adolescents. Within this portfolio, the branch supports neuroscience research on the following topics: developmental, behavioral, cognitive, and social neuroscience in human and animal models; developmental and behavioral neurotoxicology; neural bases and development of language; numeracy and mathematics; reasoning, cognition, learning, and memory; sensory, motor, and/or perceptual development as they relate to cognitive development; and screening, diagnosis, and treatment of disabilities that affect learning, including reading and writing disability, math disability, attention disorders, and self-regulatory disorders. The branch encourages multidisciplinary approaches and methods, including behavioral and molecular genetics, behavioral and cognitive interventions, and static and dynamic structural and functional neuroimaging.
  • The Developmental Biology and Congenital Anomalies Branch (DBCAB) supports basic research that contributes to our understanding of how the nervous system develops under both typical and atypical conditions. Topics of interest include: typical and atypical 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. DBCAB encourages multidisciplinary approaches, including animal models, genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, biophysics, and systems biology.
  • The Fertility and Infertility Branch (FIB) 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 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 Gynecologic Health and Disease Branch (GHDB) supports basic, translational and clinical research programs related to gynecologic health across the reproductive lifespan. Within this portfolio, GHDB supports studies into the role of central neurologic mechanisms and peripheral innervation in gynecologic pain syndromes including chronic pelvic pain, painful menses (dysmenorrhea), sexual pain (dyspareunia), and vulvodynia/vestibulodynia. Interests include pelvic pain syndromes in the setting of apparent normal anatomy or in the presence of gynecologic pathology including endometriosis, adenomyosis, ovarian cysts, and fibroids as well as post-surgical pain. Particular emphasis is placed on multidisciplinary investigations to delineate the interaction between genetic, environmental, neurologic, and psychosocial factors in the development and treatment of chronic gynecologic pain disorders.
  • The Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Branch (IDDB) supports research on topics related to the genomic, cellular, circuit, behavioral, and clinical aspects of intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs). Within this portfolio, IDDB supports neuroscience research on the following topics: etiology and pathophysiology of abnormal nervous system development and function; screening, diagnosis, and management of IDDs; and technologies related to disorders identifiable by newborn screening and their natural histories and treatments. IDDB is interested in research on specific IDD-related disorders, including Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, Rett syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, inborn errors of metabolism, mitochondrial disorders, muscular dystrophies, self-injurious behaviors, chromosomal abnormalities, genetic/genomic syndromes, and epigenetic disorders. Researchers are encouraged to use multidisciplinary, integrative, and translational approaches to study gene-brain-behavior relationships, including genetics, epigenetics, genomics, proteomics, molecular, and cellular biology; neuroimaging; in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology; animal models; gene and cell therapies; clinical trials; and behavioral interventions. IDDB is also interested in research that examines the ethical, legal, and social implications of neuroethics research, especially as it pertains to people with IDDs.
  • The Maternal and Pediatric Infectious Disease Branch (MPIDB) supports domestic and international basic, translational, and clinical research in the epidemiology, natural history, pathogenesis, transmission, treatment, and prevention of HIV, including neurologic and psychiatric complications in infants, children, adolescents, and pregnant people and women. The branch also: studies the neurobiologic and neurodevelopmental effects of HIV and other infectious diseases (e.g., Zika virus, cytomegalovirus, SARS-CoV-2) in infants, children, adolescents, and pregnant people and women; supports multidisciplinary studies of the interaction among infectious agents, genetics, the brain, and behavior; research on the effects of drugs to treat HIV and other infectious diseases on neurocognitive outcomes, including the pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics interface between central nervous system drug penetration and neurotoxicity; and neuroscience research on the effects of in utero exposure to drugs used to treat HIV and other infections in pregnant people.
  • 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. As such, 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 rehabilitation; secondary conditions associated with chronic disabilities; improved diagnosis, assessment, and outcome measures; and development of orthotics, prosthetics, and other assistive technologies and devices. NCMRR also serves as the coordinating body for rehabilitation research across NIH, including leading the 2021 revision of the NIH Research Plan on Rehabilitation (PDF 1.51 MB), and seeks collaborative opportunities with other NIH institutes. Applicants are encouraged to request dual assignment to NICHD for rehabilitation applications assigned primarily to other Institutes.
  • 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, 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
  • 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, PGNB supports neuroscience research on the following topics: nutritional effects on brain development and function; neurotropic growth factors in neuronal function, connectivity, and overall brain development; neuroendocrinology; sexual dimorphism of the nervous system; and innervation of endocrine organs.
  • The Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch (PTCIB) develops and supports research and research training in pediatric trauma, injury, and critical illness. Encouraged topics include: Pediatric neurocritical care, resuscitation, and rehabilitation; pathogenesis and prevention of sequelae of traumatic brain injury, including inflicted childhood neurotrauma, abusive head trauma, and other cerebral injuries and insults in infants and young children; approaches to improve screening, evaluation, and diagnosis of brain injury, including the use of biomarkers, imaging, and biomechanics; risk factors for cerebral injury and neurologic morbidity in pediatric intensive care, as well as neuroprotective agents; pathophysiology and management of acute injuries and comorbid conditions; neurodevelopmental outcomes in critically ill and injured children, including the prevalence of cognitive, motor, and affective deficits that affect daily function and quality of life; and multidisciplinary studies of gene–environment interactions in basic, clinical, and translational research on violence and child maltreatment.
  • 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, 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, magnetoencephalography, and near-infrared spectroscopy 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.
top of pageBACK TO TOP