The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Awards $3.9 Million in NARSAD Grants To 40 Independent Investigators for Research into Psychiatric Illness

Posted: April 6, 2017

NEW YORK CITY (April 6, 2017)—The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the top non-governmental funder of mental health research grants, today announced its 2017 Independent Investigator grants, which award $3.9 million in funding to 40 mid-career scientists from 36 institutions in 10 countries for basic research, new technologies, early intervention/diagnostic tools, and next-generation therapies for schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, autism, PTSD, and other serious mental illnesses. Since 1987, the Foundation has awarded 828 Independent Investigator Grants valued at more than $82 million.

To accomplish its mission of alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness, which affects one in five people, the Foundation awards grants that will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research. Its Independent Investigator grants are part of ongoing efforts by the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation to support scientists at every stage of their careers by funding cutting-edge research for the understanding, early detection, prevention, treatment and cure of brain and behavior disorders.

“The uncertainty surrounding future prospects for government funding reinforces the need to support the important work of these scientists, whose research will help us better understand, prevent, diagnose and treat serious psychiatric illnesses,” says Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., President and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. “The generosity of our donors makes these awards possible, and we are grateful to the members of our Scientific Council, who volunteer their time to select the most impactful research.”

Independent Investigator grants provide $50,000 per year for up to two years to support investigators during the critical period between the initiation of research and the receipt of sustained funding. This year, the Foundation received 304 applications; of the 40 grants awarded, 10 recipients had previously received grants.

Recipients are selected by the Foundation’s Scientific Council, comprised of 169 active leading experts across disciplines in brain and behavior research including two Nobel Prize winners, four former directors and the current director of the National Institute of Mental Health, four recipients of the National Medal of Science, 13 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 26 Chairs of Psychiatry and Neuroscience Departments at leading colleges and universities around the world, and 55 members of the National Academy of Medicine.

“This year’s Independent Investigators will explore many new and exciting potential approaches to the therapeutics of serious mental disorders, and a better understanding of their molecular and neuro-biological underpinnings, providing additional new targets for treatment,” said Scientific Council Member and Chair, Independent Investigator Grant Selection Committee, Robert M. Post, M.D., George Washington University.

According to Dr. Post, this year’s grant recipients plan to explore a wide range of promising topics. Some of the most interesting include:


  • Therapeutic studies using: neural feedback, repetitive transcranial stimulation (rTMS), transcranial direct current (tDCS), and even deep brain stimulation (DBS).
  • Exploring the role of cannabinoid and glutamate receptors and excess neural noise in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, and genetic factors in resilience.


  • The role of inflammation in anhedonia and reward, and the role of metabolites of ketamine in its rapid onset of antidepressant action. 
  • Novel microwave studies of the blood brain barrier; the effects of oxytocin on social interaction, and the effects of deep brain stimulation on self-injurious behavior.

Bipolar Disorder:

  • Single cell molecular profiling of olfactory neurons, conversion of fibroblasts to oligodendrogial cells (that make myelin) and how this relates to lithium response and other aspects of bipolar disorder.
  • Assessment of microglial activation in brain, arterial stiffness in adolescents, and theta burst rTMS.

Imaging-Focused Studies:

  • Predictors of perinatal depression, processes of neural connectivity, the impact of violence and threat in children, excitation and inhibition abnormalities in autism, and effects of cerebellar stimulation on working memory and psychosis.

Genetic Studies:

  • Mechanism-based treatment targets in genetically defined ill populations, the use of high throughput screening of risk genes, new methods of analysis of genes in ADHD, and epigenetic regulation in the shared genes relating to schizophrenia and cognitive dysfunction.

Behavioral Pharmacology Studies:

  • Kappa opiates in pain and affective disorder; the impact of the environment on synaptic plasticity; epigenetic mechanisms involving non coding microRNAs in fear and anxiety behavior; circuits mediating depression caused by inflammation; and generating new targets for ameliorating cognitive deficits.

Molecular Neurobiology Studies:

  • The mechanisms of estrogens positive effects in schizophrenia; the role of cultured human hippocampal pyramidal cells in schizophrenia; oligodendroglia in neuropsychiatric disorders; the role of mitochondria and of the pulvinar in brain circuit development; and the molecular pathways involved in in utero exposure to antidepressants.

Of this year’s 40 Independent Investigators, ten received prior Young Investigator Grants from the Foundation early in their careers. The Foundation’s Young Investigator Grants support scientists at the advanced post-doctoral or assistant professor (or equivalent) level for $35,000/year for two years with a maximum $70,000 grant. Its Distinguished Investigator Grants  support scientists at the full professor (or equivalent) level for up to $100,000 for one year.

Click here for a full list of awardees for the 2017 Independent Investigator Grants.

About the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

For the past 30 years the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation has been committed to alleviating the suffering of mental illness by awarding grants that will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research. The Foundation funds the most innovative ideas in neuroscience and psychiatry to better understand the causes and develop new ways to treat brain and behavior disorders. These disorders include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Since 1987, the Foundation has awarded more than $365 million to fund more than 5,000 grants to more than 4,000 leading scientists around the world. This has led to over $3.5 billion in additional funding for these scientists. The Foundation is also dedicated to educating the public about mental health and the importance of research, including the impact that new discoveries have on improving the lives of those with mental illness, which will ultimately enable people to live full, happy and productive lives. For more information, visit