Many people consider the human brain to be the last frontier of biomedical research. Understanding how the nervous system functions both normally and in the context of disease requires the combined efforts of talented researchers from a broad spectrum of the biological, behavioral, and physical sciences.
The NIH Intramural Research Program has been at the cutting-edge of neuroscience research since 1949, when the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) was first established, followed in 1950 by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Today, more than 180 laboratories spanning across 14 NIH Institutes and Centers explore the mysteries of the human brain, with over 80 facilities located together in the John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center.
In recent years, the IRP has invested particularly in the areas of molecular and cellular neuroscience; neurodevelopment; synapses and circuits; and systems and cognitive neuroscience. By empowering researchers in those and many other topic areas, the IRP’s unique interdisciplinary approach to research has enabled a wide range of important discoveries, including:
- Identifying new genetic mutations and molecular pathways associated with neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer's disease, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), laying the groundwork for development of therapies for these diseases.
- Mapping neural circuits underlying the development and modulation of pain.
- Understanding the biology of sensory systems – especially vision, audition, and somatosensation – from the organs of transduction to brain, and developing approaches to prevent and treat diseases of those systems.
- Pushing the boundaries of imaging technologies to produce highly detailed images of the human brain.
- Uncovering the role of immune cells in protecting the brain from infection and injury.
IRP programs provide excellent opportunities for career training and development — from postbaccalaureate to postdoctoral fellowships. Learn more about these opportunities via the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education.
To find out more about the neuroscience research taking place in the NIH IRP, please visit the Neuroscience@NIH Web site, and check out the IRP Accomplishments to learn about some of the groundbreaking discoveries that have been made by IRP researchers in the field of neuroscience.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, June 14, 2023