Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

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Brain & Behavior Research Foundation
Brain Behavior Research Foundation logo.png
Founded 1981
Focus Alleviate the suffering caused by mental illness by awarding grants that will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research [1]
  • New York, NY
Key people
Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., President and CEO; Stephen A. Lieber, Chairman of the Board; Herb Pardes, M.D., founding and current President of the Scientific Council

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation is a nonprofit [501(c)(3)] organization that focuses on mental health research. The Foundation website states, “100% of all donor contributions for research are invested in NARSAD Grants leading to discoveries in understanding causes and improving treatments of disorders in children and adults, such as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, autism, and bipolar, attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), post-traumatic stress and obsessive-compulsive disorders.” [2]

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation serves a growing population living with or touched by mental illness. An estimated 1 in 4 Americans live with a diagnosable mental illness, including approximately 6 percent whose mental illness is so severe as to interfere with daily activities such as work, school, or family life. “In addition, mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada." [3]

History and founding[edit]

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation began with a group of family and friends in 1981 and was originally named the American Schizophrenia Foundation. Three leading national mental health organizations collaborated to create the foundation: the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), and the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (NDMDA). In 1985, the organization became the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD); in 2011 it rebranded itself as the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, “awarding NARSAD Grants to fund research in every major area of brain and behavior research for all mental illness.”[4]

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation believes strongly in research and allocates 100% of donations for research to scientific research. The organization’s fundraising and administrative costs are underwritten by separate grants. All research proposals are reviewed by a Scientific Council, which consists of 146 volunteer mental health leaders including Nobel Prize winners, members of the National Academy of Sciences and chairs of psychiatric departments.[5]


The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation focuses its research primarily on eight of the most common mental illnesses in the United States and other developed countries[6]—schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, autism, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). NARSAD Grants are awarded to researchers in these fields according to three different categories: Basic Research, New Technologies, and Next Generation Therapies.[7]

The following are the latest NARSAD Grant statistics as of June 2014 according to the Foundation website:

  • Total given since 1987 (26th year of grant giving): $309.6 million
  • Total number of grants given: 4,569
  • Total number of institutions: 574
  • Total number of countries (other than the U.S.): 34

The most recent NARSAD Grantee Listing, from 2013, is available as a PDF file on the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation website.[8] The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Scientific Council, led by Herb Pardes, M.D., executive vice chairman of the board of trustees of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, consists of 146 volunteer mental health leaders who review over one thousand grant applications each year across all major areas of brain and behavior research and make recommendations.[9] The Foundation also sponsors the Schizophrenia Research Forum website, an online community of scientists collaborating in their search for causes, improved treatments, and better understanding of schizophrenia.

Recent scientific discoveries by NARSAD grantees[edit]

General brain research[edit]

  • In April 2013 the journal Nature published results of a study by a NARSAD grantee that uses a groundbreaking new technique named CLARITY that makes it possible for researchers to see through an intact, preserved brain and into its structures in exquisite detail.[10]
  • Findings published in the June 6, 2013 issue of Cell prove the plasticity of the adult human brain and its ability to regularly create new neurons throughout adulthood, even allowing scientists to number the amount of neurons produced.[11]


  • Some scientists believe that a brain chemical called glutamate plays a major role in the development of schizophrenia symptoms. Research results published in May 2013 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offer hope of a new treatment target for schizophrenia because they show that a long-standing, genetically-based problem with glutamate may be remedied in adulthood.[12]
  • NARSAD grantees evaluated real-world behavior in individuals with schizophrenia following the combination of cognitive remediation and functional skills training in a study that was designated on Dec. 12, 2012, as an American Journal of Psychiatry (AJP) “Editor’s Choice” for the year.[13]
  • A study published online in the Archives of General Psychiatry on July 2, 2012 found that a family history of schizophrenia and/or bipolar disorder is a risk factor for autism.[14]
  • Another study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in February 2012 showed that cognitive therapy can be used to improve the negative symptoms of schizophrenia (such as avolition and alogia).[14]
  • The journal Science published research on the discovery of rare genetic mutations found in high volumes in people with schizophrenia in its April 2008 issue.[15]


  • Yale scientists reported in the February 11, 2013 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that depression may have another root cause than previously believed. For 25 years, the neurotransmitter serotonin has been targeted as the primary cause and treatment target for depression, but the treatments have been ineffective for many. The Yale study found that disruption of a different neurotransmitter system, acetylcholine, induced depression and anxiety symptoms. This finding could have very significant implications for future treatments of depression.[16]
  • In February 2013, the New York Times reported on a new treatment for major resistant depression, called transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS. This treatment is less invasive and has fewer side effects than electroshock treatment, which has long been used effectively for major depression that is treatment-resistant.[17]
  • A study published in Nature in July 2012 shows that the hormone melanocortin may be responsible for anhedonia (the inability to experience pleasure), one of the most crippling symptoms of depression.[18]
  • In February 2010 Nature published results from a study on the efficacy of antidepressants, aiming to understand why antidepressants may fail to relieve symptoms of depression for up to 50 percent of patients.[18]
  • The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published an article on NARSAD Grant-funded research that reports the thinning of the cortex in the brain, which is the part of the brain responsible for higher thinking and functioning, is linked to depression risk.[19]

Bipolar disorder[edit]

  • A study in Biological Psychiatry in August 2012 showed genetic variants involved in several neural signaling pathways in the brain that may cause bipolar disorder, and highlighted potential new avenues for drug treatments and intervention.[20]
  • Archives of General Psychiatry published a study showing that babies exposed to antidepressants during pregnancy have abnormal neuromotor performance (which can lead to bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression).[14]
  • Study published in the June 2012 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry finds that premature birth is a risk factor for mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, psychosis, and depression.[14]
  • In 2007, the National Institute of Mental Health reported on a discovery by two NARSAD Grantees that a breast cancer drug called tamoxifen can also treat symptoms of bipolar disorder.[21]


  • On January 16, 2013, the New York Times reported on a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry which showed that some children may “grow out of” autism or go on to function normally.[22]
  • Yale study demonstrates that oxytocin increases brain function in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).[23]
  • Study published online in Nature in April 2012 shows specific gene mutations are risk factors for autism.[18]
  • In March 2012 the Archives of General Psychiatry reported on a study that helps improve scientists’ ability to identify genetic susceptibility for autism and create better treatments.[14]


  • Researchers may have found a way to reduce anxiety in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic disorder, without negatively affecting learning. Utilizing a new technology called optogenetics, which allows scientists to insert light-sensitive proteins into the brains of mice, scientists can selectively activate specific neurons and then observe the corresponding behavior. Results of the study were published in a March 2013 online edition of the journal Neuron.[24]
  • On February 3, 2013, the New York Times reported on a study published in Nature Neuroscience on the brain's fear/panic response. The study suggests that the brain processes external threats differently from internal ones related to bodily functions.[25]
  • The journal Neuron reported in March 2012 on a study showing how repeated stress damages the brain and pointing to ways to prevent such damage from occurring.[26]
  • A March 2012 article in the Journal of Neuroscience reported on a study of hormones called glucocorticoids that point to a potentially powerful strategy to improve treatments for depression and anxiety.[27]
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported on June 11, 2012 about a study showing improvements in mood, reduced levels of anger, depression, anxiety and fatigue in students who received integrative body-mind training.[19]

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)[edit]

  • In June 2013, U.S. News & World Report published an article on new research that shows that injecting mice with a new medication immediately following a traumatic event prevents the animals from developing behavioral symptoms indicative of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The researchers also identified the receptor in the brain likely responsible for the development of PTSD in humans.[28]
  • The journal Neuropharmacology published a study in December 2012 revealing a way to suppress memories that may lead to new treatments for both Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and drug addiction.[29]
  • First Lady Michelle Obama boosts PTSD research to help veterans; 92 of the participating institutions have NARSAD-Grant-funded scientists.[30]
  • The journal Science reported in January 2011 on a study of electrical synapses pointing to new ways to treat trauma and anxiety disorders.[15]
  • In September 2011, the Archives of General Psychiatry published a study identifying a potential new target for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[14]

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)[edit]

  • In December 2012, the journal Neuropsychopharmacology published a story reporting success in using electrical brain stimulation to control craving for nicotine in “addicted” laboratory rats. This research raises hope for a new treatment option for nicotine addiction.[31]
  • In September 2011 reported on a study where researchers successfully created a mouse model of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that closely mimics OCD in humans, which may help reveal new treatments for the disorder.[32]
  • In November 2010 a NARSAD Grantfunded research team became the first to provide an animal model that accurately mirrors the specific brain regions that are disrupted in OCD.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)[edit]

  • A study published on October 15, 2012, in the Archives of General Psychiatry examined the long-term impact of ADHD and showed that men who were diagnosed with ADHD as children still struggled in adult life.[33]
  • The journal PloS ONE published a study in April 2012 describing an important genetic discovery in ADHD involving the gene SynCAM1, found in glial cells.[34]
  • In April 2012 Nature Neuroscience published findings from a study in which researchers were able to identify a number of previously unknown networks in the brain that may predict the likelihood of drug and alcohol experimentation in teens. They also discovered new networks connected to ADHD symptoms.[35]
  • In 1999 results from the most comprehensive study on treatments for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The study showed that medication combined with talk therapy is best for treating ADHD.[14]


100% of all donor contributions to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation for research are invested in NARSAD Grants to help understand the causes and improve the treatments of disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, autism, and bipolar, attention-deficit hyperactivity, post-traumatic stress, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.[36]

Foundation fundraising events include a wide variety of sporting and family events such as kayaking, walks, runs, golf events, triathlons, dance parties, benefit concerts and more. These events are created and organized as part of the TeamUp! for Brain & Behavior Research Foundation program, which facilitates third-party fundraising events from around the world.[37]

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation also holds monthly "Meet the Scientist" webinars,[38] conferences[39] and other research education events for the public, and offers donors the option to sponsor a specific scientist with their donation(s).


The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation offers a number of resources to its constituents, including a virtual community it co-funds called the Schizophrenia Research Forum where scientists can collaborate to better understand and treat schizophrenia.

On its website, the Foundation has an Information Helpline[40] and an “Ask An Expert”[41] feature where visitors can write in with specific questions or browse previously answered questions. There are also a number of Recovery Stories[42] specific to the various illnesses the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation aims to treat and/or cure. These stories are meant to provide hope and inspiration to those struggling with mental illness.


Publications produced by Brain & Behavior Research Foundation on a regular basis include:

  • The Quarterly – Research and Recovery news published four times annually
  • The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Annual Report – an annual presentation of Foundation accomplishments
  • eNews – an online newsletter with research updates and event news published every week


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  3. ^ "NIMH: The Numbers Count". Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  4. ^ "BBRF: About". Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  5. ^ "Scientific Council". Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  6. ^ "Brain & Behavior Research Foundation: Mental Illness". Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "NARSAD Grants & Prizes". Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  8. ^ "NARSAD Grantee Listing" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  9. ^ "NARSAD Grants & Prizes". Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  10. ^ Chung, Kwanghun. "CLARITY for mapping the nervous system". Nature. Retrieved 15 January 2014. 
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  18. ^ a b c "Nature". Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  19. ^ a b "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences". Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  20. ^ Pedroso, Inti. "Common Genetic Variants and Gene-Expression Changes Associated with Bipolar Disorder Are Over-Represented in Brain Signaling Pathway Genes". Biological Psychiatry. Society of Biological Psychiatry. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  21. ^ "National Institute of Mental Health". Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  22. ^ Carey, Benedict (16 January 2013). "Some With Autism Diagnosis Can Overcome Symptoms, Study Finds". (New York Times). Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  23. ^ "Eurekalert". Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  24. ^ Streich, Elizabeth. "Portion of hippocampus found to play role in modulating anxiety". Neuron. Columbia University Medical Center. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  25. ^ Gorman, James (3 February 2013). "Study Discovers Internal Trigger for Panic Attack in the Previously Fearless". (New York Times). Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
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  27. ^ "The Journal of Neuroscience". Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  28. ^ Koebler, Jason. "Researchers Prevent Onset of PTSD in Mice". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  29. ^ "Research Identifies a Way to Block Memories Associated with PTSD Or Drug Addiction". Science Newsline Biology. University of Western Ontario. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  30. ^ "Huffington Post". 11 January 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  31. ^ "Electrical Stimulation of the Insular Region Attenuates Nicotine-Taking and Nicotine-Seeking Behaviors". Neuropsychopharmacology. Nature Publishing Group. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  32. ^ "". Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  33. ^ Klein, Rachel. "Clinical and Functional Outcome of Childhood Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder 33 Years Later". JAMA Psychiatry. American Medical Association. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  34. ^ "PLoS ONE". Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  35. ^ "Nature Neuroscience". Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  36. ^ "Brain & Behavior Research Foundation: About". Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  37. ^ "Team Up!". Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  38. ^ "Meet the Scientist Webinar Series". Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. Retrieved 25 February 2013. 
  39. ^ "2013 Mental Health Conference". Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  40. ^ "BBRF: Helpline". Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  41. ^ "Ask An Expert". Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  42. ^ "Stories of Recovery". Retrieved 10 August 2012. 

External links[edit]