NIMH advisory council meeting highlights research plans for suicide prevention and early detection of psychosis

BRAIN Initiative and improvements in preclinical research methods are also discussed.

By Craig Fisher

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) held the fall meeting of its advisory council on Sept. 19, 2013. NIMH Director Thomas Insel provided updates and information on new priorities for NIMH, including its role in the Obama administration’s National Research Action Plan (NRAP). NRAP is a comprehensive, multiagency approach to advance research on post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and suicide in the military. One part of NRAP calls for shifting the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service Members (Army STARRS) project, a collaborative effort between NIMH and the U.S. Army, into a longitudinal study; this will facilitate the identification of risk and protective factors, biomarkers and other mechanisms to help prevent suicide among veterans and active duty military.

In addition to Insel’s update, the advisory council meeting included a presentation by NIMH program officer Jane Pearson, who discussed a forthcoming plan for a prioritized suicide prevention research agenda based on the recommendations of a National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention report released last fall. 

Program officer Shelli Avenevoli provided an update on early prediction and preemption of psychosis, currently referred to as “EP3,”addressing the challenge of identifying and delineating disease processes early in neurodevelopment prior to the onset of symptoms. Speaking to NIH-wide priorities, NIMH’s Greg Farber provided an update on the multiagency Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, outlining new recommendations from the BRAIN Initiative working group. Also, Story Landis, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, presented on improving the quality of preclinical research through more rigorous study design (e.g., randomization, blinding, sample size estimation) and enhanced transparency in reporting these methodological practices.