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 disorder, 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 165 volunteer mental health leaders including Nobel Prize winners, National Medal of Science winners, members of the National Academy of Sciences and chairs of psychiatric departments.[5]


The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation focuses its research primarily on nine 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), borderline personality disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). NARSAD Grants are awarded to researchers in these fields according to four different categories: Basic Research, New Technologies, Diagnostic Tools/Early Intervention and Next Generation Therapies.[7]

The following are the latest NARSAD Grant statistics as of March 2016 according to the Foundation website:

  • Total given since 1987 (29th year of grant giving): $346 million
  • Total number of grants given: 5,070
  • Total number of institutions: 531 (worldwide)
  • Total number of countries (other than the U.S.): 34

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 165 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.[8] 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.

Research Prizes[edit]

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation awards several prestigious prizes to deserving scientists annually.

  • The Lieber Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Schizophrenia Research was initiated in 1987 and two of its winners have gone on to win Nobel Prizes.[9]
  • The Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Prize for Innovative and Promising Schizophrenia Research[10]
  • The Colvin Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Mood Disorders Research[11]
  • The Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience[12]
  • The Ruane Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Research[13]
  • The Klerman Prize for Exceptional Clinical Research by a Young Investigator[14]
  • The Freedman Prize for Exceptional Basic Research by a Young Investigator[15]

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.[16]
  • 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.[17]


  • A team of scientists at Vanderbilt University discovered a safe, drug-free way to treat the debilitating cognitive problems of schizophrenia. Their method of non-invasive brain stimulation is described in the June 2015 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.[18]
  • A study published in Molecular Psychiatry[19] in May 2015 showed that estrogen can improve cognition in men and women with schizophrenia.
  • 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.[20]
  • 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.[21]


  • As reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry[22] in February 2015, combination treatment over 16 weeks with citalopram (Celexa) and methylphenidate (Ritalin) resulted in improved results for people with geriatric depression.
  • According to an article in Molecular Psychiatry[23] in March 2015, omega-3 fatty acids relieve depression symptoms in people with bodily inflammation.
  • 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.[24]
  • 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.[25]

Bipolar disorder[edit]

  • A new study in the British Journal of Psychiatry[26] in January 2015 contributed to the evidence that consistent treatment with lithium—and not anticonvulsants—may reduce the risk of dementia in patients with bipolar disorder.
  • 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.[27]
  • 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).[28]
  • 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.[29]


  • 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.[30]
  • Yale study demonstrates that oxytocin increases brain function in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).[31]
  • Study published online in Nature in April 2012 shows specific gene mutations are risk factors for autism.[32]
  • 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.[33]


  • 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.[34]
  • 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.[35]
  • 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.[36]
  • 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.[37]
  • 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.[38]

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.[39]
  • 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.[40]
  • First Lady Michelle Obama boosts PTSD research to help veterans; 92 of the participating institutions have NARSAD-Grant-funded scientists.[41]
  • The journal Science reported in January 2011 on a study of electrical synapses pointing to new ways to treat trauma and anxiety disorders.[42]
  • In September 2011, the Archives of General Psychiatry published a study identifying a potential new target for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[43]

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.[44]
  • 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.[45]
  • 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 long term study of patients in New Zealand has led to surprising insights about differences between childhood and adult forms of ADHD. The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry[46] in October 2015, indicates the possibility that adult ADHD is not a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in childhood, but could be a separate condition with different causes.
  • 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.[47]
  • 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.[48]
  • 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.[49]


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.[50]

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 Research Events program, which facilitates third-party fundraising events from around the world.[51]

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation also holds two annual events - the New York Mental Health Research Symposium[52] and a National Awards Dinner[53] - monthly "Meet the Scientist" webinars,[54] conferences[55] 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[56] and an “Ask An Expert”[57] feature where visitors can write in with specific questions or browse previously answered questions. There are also a number of Recovery Stories[58] 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 – magazine 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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External links[edit]